Sailing – The First Fish
Yes, that’s what it is when you kill something, plant, human, chicken, ant, whatever. We are all the same. Eat or be eaten; this is the law of nature though I think we, as humans, are doing a rather poor job of following the laws of nature. Only the night before, Lito and I had waxed philosophical over the fact that even though we all know that someday we’re going to die, we rarely think that it will happen tomorrow, even though it could very well be the next minute. But if all men must die then so must all the fishes. My vegetarianism has never been completely strict and though in Los Angeles I’ve, for extended periods of time, been vegan depending on the times, I will now have to take the title of ‘Killer’ as I recount the events of the 7th of August 2014.
We’d set sail from Aruba a few hours before and already the day had been filled with wonder for me as a large dolphin leapt beside the sailboat. He was beautiful and, unfortunately, I was at the very moment unloading the camera card. He lives on for me only my memory though I wish him well on the rest of his life’s journey. I let out an excited yelp when Lito pointed him out, gliding alongside the boat and heading towards the front. It’s not like I’ve never seen a dolphin before. Quite the contrary, I’ve seen them many times, even swam with the rare mickey mouse eared ones in New Zealand, but in the moment it was so spontaneous, so wild… he was free and unlooked for, happy to play alongside the boat for a minute before heading off on his merry way in these pirate infested waters. Did I mention that? Yes, some Venezuelans warned us that the coast alongside Venezuela and Colombia is, at the moment, just full of them. Lito has a gun, but I’m not sure exactly how much of a deterrent that would be. But I digress…
The first fish is not the free-frolicking dolphin I saw, but the yellowfin tuna that nabbed our bait with such force that the boat seemed to turn with him. Sitting inside, I jumped up and grabbed my camera, as Lito gave a shout. There’s a fishing pole attached to the side of the boat so we’re always fishing without doing really any work at all (or at least we were…). It took some maneuvering to turn the boat back on coarse and then suddenly we were engaged in a battle with this mighty tuna, reeling him in on the long line as we bumped turbulently up and down in the waves. We’ve had “vento por caralho,” which I would loosely translate as ‘a shit ton of wind’, and the following few minutes were full of suspense and I felt a rush of adrenaline with this new experience despite the malevolent implications. The fishing reel with spinning and I followed the barely visible green line, pulled taught several meters behind the boat. Ages seem to pass and though we were steadily reeling him in, I could see nothing. With the waves crashing around us, I finally spotted him coming up through the water, fighting desperately with every ounce of his body for a life that was so quickly slipping from him. When he got close enough, Lito pulled out a pole with a giant hook — a spear of sorts — and stabbed at the thrashing fish. He was right at the bottom of the stairs now, winning against the first attack and bounding back into the water, only to be pulled out again to lose in the second attempt. Lito pushed me out of the way from where I was filming and with the hook threw the fish onto the deck, underneath the table where he gasped for air.
What his last minutes must have felt like I do not care to imagine, but they must have been brutal. Droplets of his fresh blood were already strewn all over the deck and more seeped from his shuddering body, collecting into a pool in one of the corner. The last tremor was a violent one, induced by the tequila that we poured through his open gills and mouth. A moment passed and then the convulsing began. It reminded me starkly of a seizure and the shock of this excruciating ending was too much for me to film and I reverted instead to staring into the empty wells that used to be his eyes. If I could give him a moment of silence in writing I would and I salute him for his brave fight while thinking of how ironic the whole affair was considering I spent several months in New Zealand trying to help Greenpeace save the tuna.
There is definitely no glamour in killing to eat, however, and we spent the next hour or so occupied with ripping open his body, shearing off his fins, and disposing of the innards. The first slabs of meat we pulled of his body went towards a mid afternoon snack of sashimi, slathered in soy sauce and wasabi. Literally, fresh ON the boat. Thanks to that yellowfin tuna we have food till we reach Colombia. There’s already plans to fry parts of him up with vegetables and make soup with the giant head I recently stowed in the freezer.
I won’t ever be able to forget this simultaneously gruesome and exhilarating experience, not least of all because I have videos/photos of almost all of it. Killing is sad, his bloody death will haunt me for much longer than his delicious meat will fuel my body. C’est la vie, or maybe more fitting is c’est la mort. Here you can see for yourself…