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The real fishermen…of Tofo

The real fishermen…of Tofo

Tools of the trade...
Tools of the trade…deep in the 3rd world (c) Shonalanga

We got out, through the mouth of the Inhambane Estuary, and aimed straight into the 30 knot southerly. Charter for the day – Guy and his two sons were so keen, they chose to launch this rough day. 2m Swells left 2m holes and as we got to the first reef, the lighties were looking decidedly green.
Anyway, as we slowed to set lines, I noticed a local pair of fishermen, also braving the conditions. But what actually was getting my attention was their demeanour and activity in today’s crazy ocean.
One guy was standing and fighting a fish – on a handline. The other was bailing and assisting with the loose line on the deck and all around the anglers feet.
You got to remember now, that although the sun was shining bright and the water a deep 28 degree blue, the sea was definitely inclement, with breaking sections along the chopped up swell.
So I circled the show at a distance, but close enough at times – like when the fish was on the other side of the boat and clearly visible. Tailwalking!
Around we went, strangely silent – the two youngsters made their dad proud and endured their seasickness and wild seas – waves breaking into the boat at times.
The two fishermen were also completely silent, working with the grace of a butterfly and the effiiency of a machine. Multitasking under severe pressure, they fought and won and lost every inch of line they were dealing with..for an hour now. The sea getting worse.
But he wasn’t a great marlin by the measure, 80kgs was the report I got the next day. But lets do some maths. In a country with poverty so built in, that getting protein is a major problem.
Normally when I see the locals hook up with bills around me, I am always wiling a thrown hook or something that gives it back it’s freedom…but today, being so up close and almost part of this scenario…and couldfeel and sense the urgency and emotion that these guys were feeling.
This fish, at 80kg’s, at 150mets each, generates 12000 mets. 3 months the salary of a policeman. The upliftment to them and their family is akin to winning a lottery prize. Or closing a really big corporate deal.
So when the fish gave them a chance, and presented itself longer that the rowboat alongside – out came the gaff. Hardly. A broken rod with a 9/0 Kendall round fastened on with wire?!
The angler on the line did the gaffing. His first shot was perfect but the rusted hook would not penetrate through the marlins tough skin. He got it around te other side of the skiff…bang…nothing. But now the matlin was angry and exploded all around them. Unbelievable! It felt like we were right in the scene, such vivid detail in everything going on around us.
Then he finally worked the tiring fish aft, and with the bill in one hand facing his chest, he put the gaff down it’s throat! Vas!
Now the marlins head is lying on top of the dudes body. It is still quite strong and bashing around on the boat. He grabs a knife and starts stabbing it. His mate grabs a knobkierrie and beats it on the head.
We all explode in cheers. Not at the demise of the wonderful fish…but at the success of the two anglers…fighting the stacked odds…and succeeding.
Funny thing was though, once the fish was subdued and secured, the angler immediately got the hooks out, rebaited and chucked out his handline. Then he finally spoke – in broken English – “You want to buy Sierra?”
They tried to sell us one of the four couta they had in the boat, before they caught the marlin!

Pulling together every day. Braving huge seas and dangerous currents, these guys have to have each other’s backs…and they do.
The fleet on the beach at Praia do Tofo, Southern Mozambique.
Processed in it’s entirety, the head going home to be cooked up into delicious Sopa de Peixe (Fish Soup) that will knock your socks off…


Pressure on the fish stocks in and around Inhambane is increasing dramatically as more and more people migrate in and join the ever growing workforce teased here by the tourist dollar. Some reefs and grounds are out of reach of the small boats that the artisinal fishermen are limited to here, but wherever it’s easy to get to, it’s been cleaned.

The deduction is straight forward…the concept of “eco-tourism”, is patently flawed in the 3rd world. Increase human population anywhere, and the environment takes a rapid dive, due to the dated and ineffective conservation measures in place, that are not enforced anyway.

There is also the greed factor that stems from increasing populations, easily spotted, as unmarked freezer trucks from SA haul tonnes of couta out, whenever the fish run hard enough to warrant the profits. In fact, even these poor artisinal fishers have competition from big walletted SA farmer types who catch fish to sell every day, even though they are stinking rich to start with?!

It’s a lose, lose situation for the environment in Tofo. The only thing we can do is concentrate on not becoming part of the system that will eventually annihilate the place. Any ideas anyone? 

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