Neu had a busy week fishing last week, disconnecting from his dialysis machine in the early hours to get out of the house in time to catch the tide. He was fishing for camuripim * Megalops atlanticus, a spectacular fish that can grow to incredible size (the record in Prainha is just over 80 kg of saleable meat, that is without head and guts) and one that Neu has always had a good reputation for catching. This year the camuripim have come early and Neu was determined to get out on the water, thankfully his doctor had cleared him to go, though not everyday.
In two days Neu caught 10 camuripim and landed 6, using only a baited line wrapped round his hand, no fancy fishing gear here. This is fishing in the raw for a fish that is known for strength, speed and has a reputation for being difficulty to catch, often freeing themselves (as did the 4 that Neu lost) as they leap out of the water, twisting the line and dislodging the hook from the bony plate which covers the inside of their vast mouths. It takes skill, patience, strength and luck to bring in a cumuripim, which is a financially valuable catch here.
On Saturday morning I went out with Neu, we left the house in the dark at 4 in the morning. Reaching the beach Neu was disappointed with the force of the wind, it was making the sea pretty rough and we hoped it would calm down, camuripim don’t feed well when the water is too churned up. We set off at 5 and sailed out for two hours, through some pretty big water, unfortunately even though I had my camera, it was too rough to film.
I always look forward to dawn at sea but the sky was over cast and the sun rise was really just a rise in light level from pitch black to pale grey, with pink splodges in between the clouds. Neu uses various points along the land to make a mental mark of his fishing areas, the low cloud hanging over Prainha obscured his land marks and by the time it had cleared sufficiently for him to accurately pin point our position, we had sailed out further than he wanted, so he simply rowed us back in a bit, he’s incredible, that’s hard work and he’s got kidney failure for gods sake!
As we prepared to fish, more boats arrived until there was a ragged line of 7 or 8 jangadas stretching away from us. We began fishing around 7 and almost immediately Neu got a bite, disappointingly it was only a type of catfish known here as a bagre, I think its disgusting but some people (including Neu) eat it.
Possibly because I haven’t been to sea for some time, I began to feel a little bit rough and got worse and worse, trying not to let Neu see because I didn’t want him to head back early on my part, I dozed as best I could sitting on the hard deck with the waves sloshing over me, at times like this I wonder why I like going so much.
At midday, having had no luck, I was relieved when Neu said we should head home, I promptly threw up and felt much better for it. We reached the beach around 1 and then home where I slept pretty much all afternoon. Later on I was sort of relieved to hear that only one camuripim had been caught that day and that was by someone fishing a long way away from where we had been, so our lack of luck wasn’t down to me.
Neu went out again today, once more he had no luck, he said once he starts catching again he will take me out and then hopefully we’ll both get lucky.
General over-fishing of our seas has reached such a level that there is compelling evidence our oceans will be effectively empty of commercially fished species in as little as 30 years from now. It may be unrealistic but if all fishing was carried out in the way Neu and other artisanal fishers fish, we wouldn’t be facing this problem.
85% of European waters are overfished so why is the EU about to spend €1.6bn on new fishing ships!
If you haven’t already watched it, please take 6 minutes to watch this film called “Losing Nemo” by The black fish organisation, clicking on this link will take you to their page.
*According to Peixes Marinhos Do Brasil by Marcelo Szpilman there are a whole host of ways of spelling camuripim depending on the region. The fish is known as Tarpon in Europe and America and is found in tropical and hot water areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.