Fish Responsibly (or not at all)

Fishing can be an exciting part of a long sailing passage, like the Atlantic crossing – but catching is a different story! On my three Atlantic crossings (combined), we caught a total of three fish that made it up to the dinner plate. In the process, we lost about ten lures and eight fishing lines that are all still floating around, ‘ghost fishing’ somewhere in the ocean. Only Neptune knows if a dolphin or sea turtle may have gotten injured, entangled or killed by it. Or maybe the lines got stuck in a boat propeller. Every bit of fishing gear lost will continue to damage in the ocean. It will never disappear.

Many sailors like to fish. It’s a better way to source your fish than buying them in cans, where we often don’t know how and when it’s been caught and mixed. But, do you really need to catch fish? Here’s a few things to consider.

Do you really need to catch fish?

The saying goes: “there’s plenty more fish in the sea.” Well, this saying is outdated! There’s actually not much left. Not so long ago, we thought that the ocean could replenish whatever we take from it. After all, the oceans are huge! Now we know that that is not the case. For fishing to be sustainable, we need to allow enough time for new ones to be born so the population can be maintained. The reverse is happening. We have taken more than the ocean ‘produces’, and we’re taking fish faster than they can reproduce. It’s called overfishing.

Overfishing has wiped out 90% of the ocean’s large top-predators, like sharks, tunas, cod, and groupers. And we need the big fish in the ocean because they eat the weaker ones. They prevent the ‘jenga’ from collapsing. The big fish that are still out there weigh 50% or less than they did 50 years ago. The average weight of a swordfish caught today is 45 Kilos. In the 60’s this was 130 kilos (1). Of all fish species, 52% is fully exploited, 17% is overexploited, and 7% is depleted. Common seafood choices such as tuna, shrimp, and salmon are among the worst affected (2). I don’t want to withhold the good news from you: a whopping 1% of species are recovering from depletion!

Besides impact plastic has on our ocean, wildlife and environment, plastic is a concern to human health. Plastic isn’t just around us, it’s in us! Through food we eat, water we drink, products we use, things we touch, and the air we breathe. Plastic is found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish (3). Shellfish lovers could be eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year (4).

Me taking water samples during my hitch-sailing trip around the Atlantic. The samples I took seemed like bright, clean ocean water. No plastic to be seen! Adventurers and conservation scientists then tested them for microplastic pieces. They all contained plastic, except for one! The rest of the samples, I took in different locations in the Atlantic Ocean, had more than 11 micro pieces per litre. One of the samples taken between the Canary Islands and Cape Verde had 47 micro pieces! Of all the samples collected during the ARC across the Atlantic, 97.5% of the samples contained microplastic!>

It’s not a question anymore if we are eating plastic from seafood, the question is what it does to the health of animals, the ocean, and us. Plastic in the ocean contains high levels of pollutants such as PCB, Phthalates, organic pesticides like BPA, and heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead. These are proven poisons linked to all sorts of diseases, including cancer, hormone disruption, and infertility issues (5).

The problem is not just the fish we’re taking; the problem is also how we’re taking it. So if you must catch fish, here are a few suggestions to bear in mind to make it a little less harmful.

How (& how not) to fish

  • Fish with the right gear or not at all! Choose the right hook and line thickness. Ocean fish are big guys. A thin line will not hold and will end up at sea as a ghost fishing.
  • Do your research to find out if your catch is a threatened species or not – then either release or eat.
  • Only catch and kill what you can eat.
    • Catch something you can’t eat? Throw it back within seconds, not minutes.
    • Is it too big to eat? Throw it back!
  • Kill the fish right away once you caught it. A handy trick is to spray alcohol in the gills. If you don’t, the fish will suffer tremendously, and all that stress will affect the quality of the flesh. It’s not healthy for the fish, or for you!
  • If you fish near the islands:
    • Check the local situation and rules for species, size, and sustainability.
    • Spearfishing is prohibited almost everywhere in the Caribbean (except for often lionfish, which are an invasive species and need to be reduced for the ecosystem to be in balance).
    • Be aware that many fish in the Caribbean are poisonous.
  • Wherever you are, take it easy on the bigger guys. We need them in the ocean! They eat the weak and sick ones to keep the system in balance. Few are left because it takes so long for them to mature. The higher up in the food chain, the older the animal, the more contaminants have been built up. Tuna, swordfish, shark, cod or sea bass all have dangerous levels of mercury and PCB accumulated in their bodies.
  • By eating some species, you can even help the ecosystem, such as lionfish in the Caribbean. While they were a rare sight just ten years ago, the population is now out of control.

‘Fish’ for seaweed

We have a lot of food to choose from these days with healthier alternatives that still provide the same benefit without killing life. An exciting option I have found is consuming sea algae like kelp, nori, spirulina, dulse, and Sargassum. Hundreds of edible sorts of sea vegetables are known. Seaweeds are real super foods that mostly need sun and current to thrive. These vegetables of the sea are where fish get their omegas from in the first place. It’s a healthier food choice for you and the ocean. And they just float by your boat!

Learn more about the state of the ocean and what we can do to contribute to a healthier ocean in Ocean Nomad.

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Vanishing Sail Filmscreening in Lanzarote – Canary Islands

Earlier this year I fell in love. In love with those wooden boats, I encountered on the beach in Carriacou, Grenada. I was determined to go to Windward Carriacou, where the boats are being built, after seeing this movie Vanishing Sails at the Grenada Sailing Week. So I went. I ended up staying two months. Later, I was lucky enough to sail up one of the beauties for the West Indies Regatta in St. Barts where Carriacou sloops are united for a weekend of fun, adventure, and replicating the trading past. Pure Bliss. Vanishing Sail is a story that needs to be shared with the world to make sure these boats with souls won’t vanish. To keep traditional alive. And dreams alive. My dream is to build one. From pure enthusiasm, I’m hosting a film screening in Lanzarote. Come and watch and get excited about the sloops, Carriacou, and the Caribbean. They can all use a little encouragement.

 

Vanishing Sail, award-winning Caribbean feature Doc in Puerto Calero – Lanzarote!

Vanishing Sail has been making waves all over the world at film festivals and special event screenings and now West Indies Boatbuilding Culture comes to Lanzarote when the Puerto Calero Auditorium will resonate with the sound of caulking mallets on a wooden hull taking shape on a beach in Carriacou, the Land of Reefs!

“If this thing gone from here, everything gone you know…” Alwyn Enoe

On the island of Carriacou in the West Indies, the last wooden sailboat builder dreams of saving a great tradition passed down the generations from Scottish settlers that sailed there centuries ago. The film follows Alwyn’s journey over three years, from hauling trees with his sons, to a final traditional launching ceremony. Stories of the old Caribbean – trading by sail and smuggling contraband interweave a tribute to the independent spirit of a small island community.

“A fascinating story of personal perseverance, ribald tales of smuggling at sea and the completion of the beautiful wooden sloop in a race against time to enter the thrilling Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.” Wooden Boat

“An insightful and poignant documentary that is part social history and part Herzogian portrait of resilience and determination in a far-flung locale.” Indiewire

“A haunting, captivating story that will pull heart-strings and etch in the mind of every viewer.” Classic Boat

“Beautiful…” Derek Walcott

Vanishing Sail is currently available for screening at Special Events, Film Festivals, Boatbuilding Academies, Maritime Heritage Institutions, Yacht Clubs, Fundraisers, Coastal & Caribbean Communities worldwide.

Screening time:  Saturday, October 28, 2017 19:00 PM – 20:30 PM

Attendence is FREE: Indicate attendance here to be sure of a seat (maximum seats)

Trailer & Film Details:  http://www.vanishingsail.com

Trailer:

Vanishing Sail – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Indian Creek Films on Vimeo.

Venue Address:  Auditorium in Puerto Calero

Presenting Partners: Ocean Nomad, S/V Grace of OceanConservation, Puerto Calero Marina,  Boatshed.com & Classic Boat

Call for a Screening Sponsor to make this happen! Learn more. Thank you!

Watch Vanishing Sail

The Screening is part of the Ocean Nomad Book launch festivities. Ocean Nomad is an ocean adventure travel guide on how to catch a sailboat ride & contribute to a healthier ocean.

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How to minimise your waste footprint when sailing the ocean? Part 1.

The discussion comes up on every boat setting sail for the ocean. How are we going to deal with waste?  Is it better to throw glass and tin in the ocean or dump it on a little island? What is actually recyclable? How to dispose waste on the other side? Are there recycling facilities in the Caribbean?

I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean 3 times now. I learned a lot on how and how not to do things! I especially saw and learned about the importance and decline of the ocean! Here’s what I learned in the waste department. Surely the intentions of the sailors and yachtsmen are to take best care of the environment. We all love the ocean. And we like to keep it healthy so we can keep exploring this beauty forever! We also love visiting the islands and waste management facilities may be non-existent.

So how to deal with waste when sailing across the ocean?

Part 1: minimize the provisioning footprint 

ON SHORE

We have to be mindful to what we bring on shore on the islands. The Caribbean islands do not have big enough landfalls. Waste is often dumped near the road or burned. Waste in landfalls is often burned as well. So is it better to just throw things like cans, and glass in the ocean? How can we as sailors best tackle this waste management issue on boats?

Here’s some ideas to minimize your footprint as a sailor while still on shore:

  • Number 1. Do you very best buying without as little packaging as possible. We got to be more mindful in what we bring on board in the first place. It can really add up! As a crewmember, before you even hop on board minimize, minimize, minimize.
  • Opt for landing at a destination with recycling facilities in place. It’s worth making your first landing on one of these islands for safe disposing garbage.
  • In Spain, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean a plastic bag is still practically mandatory at the supermarket. Always bring your own bags.
  • Choose consciously what you buy:
    • Buy in bulk to have less packaging in the first place. You can store smaller amounts in reusable containers.
    • Paper towel. This is often used lots on board. In many situations a good old reusable cloth can do the job. If you do use paper, get one that is biodegradable and does not have ink on it (ink is a kind of plastic!). White paper towel is bleached and should not go overboard. Recycled toilet paper & kitchen roll sounds great but is often treated with a lot of chemicals.
    • Cleaning Products. Use biodegradable washing liquid for your own and the health of the oceans. It all drains straight to the ocean. You find this in organic stores (which you can find on Happy Cow). Vinegar + water remains a good cleaning product, for the boat interior as well as your hair.
    • Use natural biodegradable soaps and shampoos.
    • In Spain, go to the market for your provisioning. At least in Las Palmas, they will pick the greenest fruits and veggies for you which will last the longest. They come and bring it in carton boxes to the boat. It’s the cheapest way, you support the local entrepreneur and not plastic bags. Avoid buying as much as you can from the supermarket. It’s wrapped in so many wrappers and at checkout they put everything in bags again, even if you friendly ask not to do that. Especially when they deliver goods. Many boats leave from Spain where they still very accustomed to wrap things in multiple packaging.
    • Don’t buy items that contain lots of wrappers: candy, biscuits and tea (in Spain and Cabo Verde many brands even wrap every individual tea bags). Make your own. If you happen to do buy wrapped stuff, get rid off as much packaging as you can if your departure destination has facilities in place.
    • Go to the market with your own reusable bags. If you have foods delivered, see if the marketmen can take back the cardboard and boxes. You don’t want to take those anyway since they are a source of unwanted bacteria, cockroaches.
    • Choose products with recycled packaging or packaging that you can reuse yourself.
    • Use reusable containers to store goods.
    • Reuse items as much as you can– bags, containers, boxes, etc.
    • Get cloth napkins instead of paper.
    • Get wooden pegs, instead of plastic ones.
    • If you don’t have a water filter on board and bottled water is needed. Buy the 20Liter bottles + a pump. Water bottles are one of the biggest ocean polluters and not desired in the Caribbean.
    • Please don’t buy balloons for the ocean birthday or halfway party. The wind and sun will have them snap and it’ll get mixed into the plastic soup.

 

We live in a world where convenience and profit still dominate the scene. Walk the extra block. What’s more important? Convenience or continuing a healthy ocean for future generations?

With conscious provisioning can reduced your negative impact bigtime.

What about when you’re out there? What to do with the waste that you are creating? What can go overboard? Read more about provisioning, long lasting healthy  foods to buy and how to deal with waste on the ocean and on the other side in Ocean Nomad – The Complete Atlantic Sailing Crew Guide.(Download a free sample)

With a healthy ocean, everyone wins!

Available now!

“I can sense the enthusiasm coming out at me from the pages and feel that her book is an inspiration and fantastic guide on hitch sailing and ocean preservation. It should be on every yacht out there at sea.”- Steve Green Yacht Master Instructor and Ocean Master

Ocean Nomad: The hitchhikers guide the Atlantic Ocean. How to find a boat to cross the Atlantic? (&how not)