For years they suffered the consequences of its voraciousness on the marine ecosystem, their economy and their diet, until one day they decided to react—and it paid off.
We are referring to Caribbean artisan fishing communities and the lionfish, a species that is about 30 centimeters long and beautiful to look at but endowed with extremely venomous spines. It is an alien species native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which with its rapaciousness has caused serious damage to the balance of the Caribbean, pushing populations of commercial species, such as the lobster, to the verge of extinction. Then last year the Asociación de Pescadores Artesanales del Caribe Sur (Asopacs) drew up a protocol on fishing and commercialization and submitted it to the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment. The initiative soon spread to other countries and the pez león now tops the menu in the finest restaurants in Central America. At Slow Fish we shall be hosting a delegation of fishers headed by José Ugalde Jimenez to share this and other stories, hopefully all with such a happy ending.
At Ngaparou, a fishing village on the coast of Senegal, things weren’t going well: the sea, which abounded in much sought-after species such as lobsters, cuttlefish and octopus, was being exploited by aggressive fishing practices and frequently ‘raided’ by large ships flying foreign flags. Catches were diminishing, as were wages. In 2007 the fishers formed a committee of 450 men and women to manage fishing resources and conserve the marine environment by protecting reproduction sites and optimizing wages. Among their initiatives were a ban on the fishing of young and female lobsters, the creation of a protected marine area and the prohibition of the removal of sand from the beach. The secretary general Abdoulaye Papa Ndiaye will tell us all about them.
These are just some of the experiences that Slow Fish Italian and international network delegates will be coming to share in Genoa with their colleagues from all over the world. Alongside fishers will be the cooks and chefs at the Chefs’ Alliance Kitchen and the Fish-à-porter events at the Slow Fish Market. One such cook is Christian Qui who, after training as a landscape architect, worked as an artist in Marseille before opening his SushiQui restaurant, where he serves sushi prepared with seasonal fish caught by local artisan fishers. There will also be virtuous fishmongers such as Wim Versteden from Belgium, the founder of Pintafish, a business that selects sustainably caught fish, distributes it by dedicated transport and sells it directly to consumers at local points of sale. Last but not least, there will be the academics who devote their studies to the close but delicate relationship that binds man to the life of the sea and how, inevitably, each one of us can influence its balance—for better or worse. The French biologist Pierre Mollo, a specialist in the sensitive role that marine microorganisms like plankton play in the ecosystem, will be one of them.
You will be able to meet them and others like them at the Casa Slow Food and elsewhere at lectures, talks, screenings, workshops and meals.
A net is a piece of fishing tackle, the network is the fragile but extensive tangle of relations that unites water, land, microorganisms, fish, fishers and consumers in a living, interconnected system that we’re all involved in, every time we buy fish. The Slow Fish network and campaign came into being to explain this dynamic and highlight the need to promote fishing systems that operate with respect for this delicate network of connections, where the relationship between the health of the social fabric and that of the environment is explicit.
Every day the stories of communities of fishers, processors, biologists and cooks will take visitors to Slow Fish on a journey across seas, oceans, lakes and rivers to show them how their identities, knowledge and languages are a legacy in need of protection and an effective tool for understanding the complexity of the aquatic world.
Slow Fish invites us to explore the seas through the eyes of people who live them.