After a couple of months at sea, back in his own bed, Daniel (44) subconsciously raises one of his knees to counteract the swaying of the ocean. Much to the annoyance of his wife.
He’s one of two new Spanish fishermen who will spend the next two months on board the Brieiro Celeiro in the North Atlantic Ocean fishing for hake. Daniel usually works in construction and leaves his daughter Andrea (14) back home in Camariñas, northern Spain.
His new co-worker, Brais, also starts today; he's 24 years Daniel's junior. Although he’s less chatty than Daniel he is filled with a youthful optimism.
Brais doesn’t fear the storms at sea and one day he wants to be the captain of his own fishing boat; his girlfriend Marta isn’t too impressed with him leaving for the next eight weeks.
Daniel and Brais have travelled to the south west of Ireland, to a coastal village named Dingle, the night before they begin their new jobs.
Both get a hearty breakfast in a quaint family run B&B close to the harbour before the boat docks. The owner, John, himself a former fisherman of 40 years has a firm grasp of Spanish.
His dining room is filled with little fishing knick-knacks; there’s a ship in a bottle, a statue of a puffin on a table and framed photos of ocean scenery dotted around on the walls.
The men do their prerequisite swap of stories from the sea.
Over the years, John has fallen overboard four times, but like a cat, he tells them, he has nine lives. He gives credence to the stereotype that the Irish are great storytellers.
John likes to chat about the Hollywood movies filmed in the area.
Scenes from the new Star Wars movie were shot nearby as well as parts of the final Harry Potter movie. In certain places the beautiful scenery around Dingle can seem like another planet.
The boat that will collect the men is part of the marine sustainability movement. Owned by the Spanish fishery, Grupo Regal, a family run business founded in 1964. Their entire fleet is now certified.
The owner, Juan Antonio Regal, voluntarily put the fishery forward for Marine Stewardship Council certification. Then an independent assessor weighed them up against a set of benchmarks. Some of the criteria include; minimising catch of non targeted species and limiting catch size to sustainable amounts. The entire fleet is now certified.
On the boat Daniel and Brais will be using a selective fishing technique with minimal impact on the environment consisting of a series of weighted longlines with hooks. They also care for birdlife which flock around the boat. They only fish in the dark with the back lights off and use ‘scarebird-lines’ to dissuade the persisting birdlife.
On the off chance a bird gets caught, both have been trained to safely remove hooks from the birds’ mouths.
All the hake caught by this fishery is now eligible to carry the blue MSC label in shops and restaurants.
The frosty Irish morning has mostly thawed as Daniel and Brais wait with a truck to unload the fish. The large refrigerated vehicle is destined for Spain.
The Atlantic sets the schedule and the boat arrives right on time. The tide comes in and out in a four hour window from around 3pm to 7pm so the clock is always ticking. The boat is carrying 15 men and a full load of hake covered in ice, neatly laid in stackable trays.
Introductions of the two debutants are brief and both men immediately get to work. Brais is sent below the deck to load up the crates while Daniel guides them to the truck.
The men take turns unloading the fish while some get a brief chance to contact their family. The process is well drilled and done with military efficiency.
The boat, now with two extra helpers, leaves right on schedule before the tide goes out. It will be another seven days before any of them have phone coverage again.
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