By: PAULO SILVESTRE
Fishing IS not what it used to be. In a country with a big tradition for this industry, local fishermen are in danger of turning into a species that may be extinct in the not so distant future.
Manuel Santos, who has been a fisherman since the age of 13, talked to The Resident about his life as a ‘sea wolf’.
Born and raised near the beach in the small village of Benagil near Carvoeiro, he took initially to fishing for the pleasure of going out in his boat and coming back with the delight of a job well done.
“Fishing is not an easy task”, he said, citing the bad weather and the shortage of fish as the reasons for a general
reduction in the catch at the end of each tide.
He doesn’t predict a bright future for the industry in the smaller fishing ports. “The youngsters don’t show interest in fishing and we, the old fishermen, one day will not be able to get into the boat,” said Manuel Santos.
He puts this down to the difficulties fishermen face to make a living and the lack of interest from the Portuguese government to help the fishing industry.
The situation at the small ports, if nothing is done, will be degraded year by year he said.
The constant increases in fuel costs, now around 1.30 euros per litre, and the new fishing laws that limit the action of the fisherman do not bode well for the future.
A fisherman cannot be alone with his boat more than 250 metres from another vessel. If that happens, the Maritime Authority applies fines, starting from a minimum of 250 euros.
“Sometimes when the authorities come, we run away,” said Manuel Santos. “The money we earn doesn’t allow us to pay the fines. When we go out to the sea, we do not go in groups. Each fisherman chooses the zone he likes the most. That law limits our action.”
Manuel Santos criticises the government for not doing enough to support fishermen.
“In 1975, we started to receive 50 escudos (0.25 euros) every time we went to sea and sold the fish at the market, but that support does not exist any longer. “The only financial assistance that fishermen receive today is when they want to change their boat. That law was implemented seven years ago and it’s the only one that still remains.”
The small fishing boats in Portugal are suffering from a big crisis, the conditions are poor and it seems like nobody wants to take action to change this situation. The concerns are becoming more and more evident and the art of fishing appears to be dying.
Manuel Santos is an example of a fisherman who struggles to make a living from his job. But his love of fishing means he continues his occupation with a smile on his sunny, tanned face.
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