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Fisherman Zeca Àguas

That’s the way life is

Interview with the fisherman Zeca Águas (55), from Portimão.

ECO123: Nowadays, when you observe the amount of fish in the sea and compare it with a generation ago, do you notice any differences?
Zeca ÀguasZeca Águas:
According to my experience of 15 years ago, both in terms of my studies or from what I can see with my eyes, including soundings, we have 75% less fish today. Many species are affected because no one has been concerned about them until today – only now. For the first time, last year, they took the trouble to introduce a closed season. They didn’t kill the females, because, if they did, they’d also kill the offspring. But that is what happened for many years, until the politicians and people responsible in the fisheries area started to listen to the warnings from those who work at sea. But they waited until we ruined our stocks.

That means we are fishing too much.
We have fished too much, done everything too much. We have built too many houses, we did everything beyond what we needed. Now we will need many years to reproduce and regulate our stocks.

Does this apply to sardines…
Yes, to sardines. To mackerel too, but more to sardines. To squid and octopus too. There must be a compulsory closed season: between May and August, when octopus are spawning, this has to be respected and there should be no fishing at that time.
We here, we have lots of small-scale artisan fishing, not industrial. Artisan fishing is something to be preserved – if it’s controlled, it works. If fishing continues to be uncontrolled, one day everything will die. Fish themselves never die, it is only fishermen who one day will no longer be able to go fishing. The last fish will always be out there.

What do we need to change in our way of thinking?
We have to learn to respect the development of the fish. All species have to be protected to allow them to reproduce. If we do not call a serious halt to fishing during reproduction, we will kill the adults and the offspring. It’s the same with humans, it’s the same with everything. What’s bad is excess.

But consumers want to eat fish.
Yes, they want to eat it.

Is aquaculture a solution?
No, fish from aquaculture tastes of flour. It’s like chicken from an aviary, reproduced in a month. Everything needs time.

Is it the case that less is more?
We have to adapt to current circumstances. The time of excess is over. We need to be very patient, we need to wait and take care not to repeat the crimes we have committed. We need to keep some reserves for our children and grandchildren.

Will we win happiness with this knowledge?
Happiness is not something you win, each individual has to find their own. There’s none for sale, nor can you buy it at the supermarket or at the market. You have to construct it. That’s the way life is.


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