Friday, December 11, 2015

Something’s fishy on Isla

Beach near Velasquez Restaurante

Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women surrounded by water and fish, lobsters and conch. Until tourism started to boom in the 1980’s the traditional way of making a living for islanders was fishing.  
Even now around dawn the open deck panga-style fishing boats and crews head out to pull in the hopefully-heavy nets.  
If they are lucky, four or five fishermen per boat will be needed to haul the nets into the boat.  
In the evening the reverse happens, the fishing crews return to their favourite locations and reset the nets for the night hoping for a successful catch.
Heading out - watching for the Lady Fish run

When the weather turns grumpy the Port Captain closes the port, restricting the size of the boat that can leave the harbor until he gives the okay to leave.  
These are the days that most island restaurants will tell you that there is no fish for their menu that day.  
Others might have a supply of frozen fish from previous catches, and still others might substitute with a Vietnamese Basa, a river-caught fish, uniform in shape, and softer in texture.   Basa is not my favourite and I will usually change to something that does not include fish for my menu choice.

Cleaning and repairing nets
The good thing about a port closure - it gives the fishermen time to repair and clean their nets.  Sometimes you will see them on the beach north of Velasquez Restaurante on Rueda Medina. 
They string the nets between palm trees searching for rips, pulling off bits of seaweed that have been snagged in the weave.  

Weaving a new net
On very stormy days the net-mending takes place under covered domes where after school basketball games normally happen.  
Watching the fishermen repair tears in the netting is very reminiscent of the folks who weave hammocks.  
Holding a wooden bobbin in one hand and a tough nylon line in the other their hands weave in and out, neatly filling in the torn area.  It’s a beautiful skill.
As you enjoy your freshly caught fish in a local restaurant on Isla Mujeres think about the folks that make that tasty meal possible.  

Cleaning the catch 
Working whenever the weather allows the small open boats to ply the waters, hauling in fish, cleaning the catch at the end of the day and repairing nets on the stormy days in preparation for the next day’s work.  
It’s a physically demanding job, dangerous at times but for those who do the work there is no other job that gives them so much enjoyment.

Cheers from Paradise
Lynda & Lawrie

Crew cleaning up at the end of the day

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