On Fish and Fishing

We have now spent a week pottering in the Rias Baixas – delightful sheltered waters and scenery reminiscant of  a  Scottish Loch, or perhaps Firth – but what is most remarkable about the area is the sheer  intensity of fishing and shellfish farming. Each little town has a huge fish market bursting at the seams with every kind of fishy produce  and wherever we anchor , at dawn there are  bound to be 5 or six small boats netting sardines in the shallows. The middle Ria is covered with “bateaux” – large platforms from which hang hundreds of rope bundles all covered in mussels- and attended by large craft equipped with cranes to assist harvesting them on a truly industrial scale. I gather that the Ria de Vigo  (the southern most) specialises in oysters in a similar way.

Inevitably one wonders if the ecosystem can cope, although the evidence of the markets suggests that there are still plenty of fish around. We quite frequently see dolphin fishing in small groups, and there seem no shortage of tiny fish swimming around the boat.

We spent last night anchored off the Isla Arousa – which apparently is where the first fish canning factory was set up in the 19th century. At dawn I was astonished to see, not 5 or 6 as usual, but a veritable armada of a hundred or so small craft heading out with their nets  to a small area about a mile away where the water shoals rapidly and must form a natural funnel on the flood tide. Each boat had one or two men and so might be said to be small scale fishing , but the sheer numbers of boats  must have left  precious few sardines left at the end of the tide.

I have been worried by industrial fishing for some time – but  in a wooly sort of way  would like to think we could catch the occaisional fish to eat  on a line of some sort  without disturbing the envoronment too much. The problem is  that as Ben would say, the ratio of  fish in the ocean to those sizzling in our pan was, until very recently, infinity! We have however recently broken our duck (that does seem a strange metaphor for fishing  but lets not quibble!) but despite trying very hard we are unlikely to compete with the myriad fisherfolk of Galicia. I guess that means another visit to the fish market tomorrow then!


  1. Hi Philip and Linda. Well it all sounds marvelous over there. With regard to fishing, I recall flying from Auckland to Wellington in the 1970s at night and seeing what appeared to be a substantial city about 50 miles offshore – squid fishermen from Taiwan or somewhere!. On crossing the Tasman, we encountered a 300 mile maze of nets through which we had to navigate. You’re right – it is a bit of a worry but I do so like fresh sea food.
    I assume you will travel on down to Lisbon or perhaps Cadiz or Gibralter before venturing off to some nice island where the wine is sweet and the sun always shines

  2. Oh dear worrying about fishing. I am sitting inside marking hundreds of tests on an overcast early spring day, tormented by thoughts of fish markets in Spain.

  3. Hi Phil and Linda,
    Great to hear that you got across the channel,we had a good week cruising our Shrimper on the Fal and racing in Falmouth Week.
    Brought back memories when you talk about Vigo\Cancas, the boys did a Hobie worlds in Cangas and I spent a lot of my time on my bike cycling around the coast, as you say the immense mussel and oyster fishing beds make the mussel farm on the Fal look miniscule, I also remember the derelict Sardine factories, quite weird!, the other strange thing about the place was that the locals came out to eat and promenade at about 10.30 at night with school kids still running around at midnight! they also spoke little or no Englsh!
    Talking of fishing and our previous conversations, we caught a sea bass on the Mackerel spinner on friday off Hayling! Ti also had a go at stabbing a Grey mullet with a knife attached to the whisker pole! no luck but did get a few scales.Happy sailing
    Ruth and Tim

Leave a Reply