Life in a trawler boat off the coasts of Galicia
Santa Uxía de Riveira, Galicia, 2012.
We put to sea bidding farewell to the peninsula for a few days. It’s nighttime. The skipper introduces me to the ship’s workers, the earsplitting noise of the motor doesn’t however let me exchange more than a couple of words with them and I barely catch their names. The further we get from shore, the more it feels like I’m in Isabel Coixet’s film “The Secret Life of Words”. The facial features of the fishermen show the harshness of their job. I feel that inside they have a strange love-hate relationship with the sea. Perhaps this great pond is for them a break from their land, mundane, family life.
Walking amongst big pulleys, chains and hatches, I go deep into one of the most polemic and ecologically unsustainable trades: trawl fishing. Fundamentally, it is the use of a weighed net which sweeps and destroys the seabed, capturing everything it meets on the way. Trawling is one of the most invasive fishing methods; a system based on productivity which modifies marine topography, accumulates unwanted fish resulting in up to a third of its fishing volume (fish which are then thrown back lifeless into the sea) and, lastly, contributes to the extinction of species.
When the noisy silence is broken by conversations with the workers, they talk to me about their long workdays, the few hours spent on land, the colleagues who lost their lives while working, their humble wages and the storms they endured together. They tell me that I’m lucky to see the sea calm (as seasick as I feel!). I observe that shipwrecking is a constant presence in their minds and that they are conscious that the sea is being exhausted, that they are living thanks to a transitory trade and that sooner or later they will have to make a living from something else, even though right now they say they have no alternatives.
Two days later, while night is falling, we dock inside the harbour once again. Seasick and tired, I remain on land. They on the other hand will spend some hours in the harbour fixing the nets so as to go back to that universe of water once more, once again.