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The last Brindle Bass…

The last Brindle Bass – will go something like this…

If only life were that simple. Do this. Don’t do that…

For most of us, living within the law comes easily enough. But what happens when our livelihood – and an honest one at that –  handed down over generations – a noble and admirable occupation – gets made illegal? Due to the depletion of the very resource your living depends upon? And you never depleted it or exploited it at all, in the first place?

There is a really skinny old little guy who breezes through the Tofo Mercado every so often. I first met him on the dunes on the Tofo Point – just next to the rocks on the north facing dune. He was shivering to his little old bones trying to warm up in the scant winter sun, from his hours long, and fishless dive. As puny as this guy is, he swims on his own for these solitary hours, and hours. As I got to know him better over some years, I started recognising him out at sea. Miles out at sea. Always a smile – and hardly ever a fish. Despite the sheer physical and emotional effort. Most spearos know what I am talking about, when I say – emotional.

Since the tourism scene exploded like a bomb on certain East African havens, there has been a huge increase in the demand for protein, in those areas. Meat. This is what happens all over the world, all of the time. As the tourist dollar gets spent, the dinner bell rings far and wide – attracting many, many migrant labourers, and gold chasers. All hungry.

Our guy used to shoot as many fish as he and his family could eat. Every day. But not anymore. Now the fish are few and far in between. They have been eaten.


As a tourism mushroom blows up over a newly found East African treasure – first the close by reefs are plundered. Completely stripped of their fishy dignity. Then the destruction extends. By fin or by boat – but steadily, and like the wave from an atom bomb – it spreads and kills. Reef after reef. Shoal after shoal. Mile after mile. Ony the far reaches are not attained – 30 kms or so away.

So our hapless full time spearfisherman, who for years has been plying these Tofo waters for subsistence and survival, is faced with an interesting quandry, with which to fill his head as he swims the blue currents, all alone.
Does he shoot as much as he can, when he can, braving the odd shark or current, and returning with enough to eat, and sell the rest? Making some profit. Pay his kids school fees?
Or does he maintain the subsistence way and just keep on keeping on. Well I am sure our guy would choose the latter, if but one thing. Where are all the fish? They have just simply been eradicated. So he survives on pelagics mainly, and their seasonal visits. And nowadays, he shoots what he can…

Lottery vs Starving

So this is what our guy is thinking, as he forces himself on, diving to 20 metres and more, up and down, feeling dizzy, cold and very alone. Where have all the fish gone?

Then all of a sudden, a huge brindle bass swims along the side of the ledge he is plying. It’s big enough to swallow our guy whole – but it doesn’t see him above and away. It’s one of the last. A pure marine monster of the depths. A survivor. Fifty years old. A national treasure. He most likely came in from deeper waters, or a neighbouring reef up or down the coast. A hundred years old – probably had a name – like “Clive” or something. Either way, he was here now, and our guy had not seen a fish like this for a very long time. He was doing the maths in his head. How much did it weigh? At 150 Mets a kilo for prime grouper like this, even more to the Chinese buyers…that is a lot of money swimming just under the ledge.

And so our guy takes a few deep breaths. He swims away at a tangent and down, skinny legs pumping, hands checking and rechecking his gun. It’s a 1.4 m Rob Allen that I gave him a while back and is in good nick. And so is he. He is built for this shit. As small as he is. He is honestly barely 5 feet tall. He bails over the reef adjacent and around from where he saw the huge fish. And starts to edge around towards where his finely honed gut feel tells him to be. He knows this reef, and this fish doesn’t. It’s just moved in here a while to look around. Our guy edges closer, slow metres, slow seconds. He has been down a half minute now but feels nothing from his depth hardened lungs. Closer. Yes, closer.

The fish has made it’s way around the reef and, big enough to eat the man waiting for it, warily patrols toward him. Around a boulder. They practically swim into each other! The huge fish reacts. With a sound like a sonic boom, he pounds the viscosity around him and goes into a massive 180…as our lone spearo pulls the trigger. The spear enters exactly right for him and not for the fish. Under the pectoral, but angling upwards – right through the old warrior’s heart. It almost dies instantly. But groupers don’t.
After a struggle, our guy subdues and ropes the dying vagabond. And with a feeling of euphoria, at the huge financial feat he has achieved, starts to drag his huge prize, home. It’s a long swim, but he makes it eventually.

He hits the beach and 8 guys help him drag the fish to the market. Like a funeral procession. It’s a protected species but those rules are never enforced here. The new lifeguards here in Tofo, in full battle garb – shoes, longs, collars and berets are right there, admiring the fish as it finally dies.

So who do we blame the demise of the brindle bass on? NOT on my underprivileged spearo friend! No ways.

You can blame it on the development of unchecked tourism in this area.


Read: another example of government incompetence and greed

This is not our guy from the story, but it is the Brindle Bass featured in this story…shot yesterday (2014) – way off Tofo Beach (c) All rights reserved

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Post by The Sardine News.

1 thought on “The last Brindle Bass…

  1. so hard for the people- and one less creature from the depths, excellent story Shonalanga I loved and hated reading it RIP Clive or whatever his name was…

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