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I’ve been talking to the islanders who all have fishing and the sea in their blood. Things are changing, and they know it. Tourism makes them more money than fish. There’s a sense of pessimism; shoulders are shrugged in a way that means, “What can you do?” Questions are met with a blank stare or a pretense of not understanding.
It's as though we are all frogs in the proverbial pot of boiling water. As the saying goes, frogs placed in a pot of boiling water will jump out, but if you place a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly bring to a boil, the frog won’t notice until it’s too late.
We know the fish are smaller, and there are less of them, we know the water is warmer than it was last year at this time, we know dragging nets on the bottom of the sea makes things worse; but who is paying attention? Who is literally minding the ships and enforcing regulations?
One day last week, an unusual number of small fishing boats were being loaded up with nets and heading out to sea at around 6:00 pm. I asked a local friend where they were going, and he shrugged and said, “We aren’t supposed to notice them going out. They aren’t going anywhere.” Maybe the anchovies were running or something else that is illegal for the locals to catch. What once was a proud tradition on the island is now a furtive world of fisherman skirting the law.
There are severe limits put on the local fisherman, but are these guys the problem? Surely, a handful of local boats aren’t decimating the fish population. Perhaps, the huge commercial fish trawlers that have permission from the Italian government could be the problem? The story I’ve been told is the Italian government sold the fishing rights to the Japanese. But, like pretty much everything else regarding commercial fishing, it’s hard to get anyone to talk.
Our inspiring Managing Editor Robin Ove, and I discussed what would be a good first topic for the inaugural issue of our quarterly digest, and we almost immediately agreed it should be about the state of fish and our seas.
A core mission of World-Eats and the W-E Digest is to be like a ‘decoder’ ring: taking what the academic and scientific world is working on, and trying to understand it in small bites.
But, it is not all bad news and heartache. There is positive news and good work being done by people all over the world. And we never forget art, beauty, and community when we think about good food and how the world eats.
We hope you enjoy the work of our generous contributors. It was a leap of faith for the writers, photographers, artists and storytellers to volunteer their work, and we are spectacularly grateful to them.
Hope you enjoy “Swimming with the Fishes” and will look forward to our fourth quarter issue where we dig around in the “Dirt”.
-Judith Klinger is a Founder and Director of World-Eats.org