Fishing From A Small Island

Julie, here at Lanzarote Information, has previously written in the on line magazine that:

We love nothing better than a fresh fish lunch eaten at a restaurant situated over-looking the sea somewhere along the coast in Lanzarote. Most of the time we leave which fish of the day up to the waiter and we’ve yet to be disappointed.

The Spanish name of the fish often bears no resemblance to the English equivalent so we’ve shortlisted a few of the more common ones found on menu’s in Lanzarote* to help you decide what to order.
One of the strangest fish we’ve eaten in Lanzarote is called cantarero, it was served to us twice recently. The first time we were enjoying Sunday lunch in the small coastal village of Arrieta in the North, Restaurante El Charcon sits on the harbour overlooking the dolls house. We told the waiter we’d like fresh fish of the day but served fried and he suggested cantarero, simply prepared with the sides scored and deep fried it was delicious. Later when we looked up the name we found out we’d just eaten a plate of scorpion fish! Not the most handsome of the species but definitely very tasty.

I was offered cantarero a week or two afterwards at Restaurante Playa Quemada, situated in the South of the island on a black beach. The waiter could only translate it as a local fish when I questioned if this, too, was a scorpion fish. This time it was served open and grilled with slices of toasted garlic on top, it was lovely but not quite as nice as the deep fried version I’d eaten previously.

El Golfo is a popular destination for fresh fish lunches, there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from in this seaside village nestled between Timanfaya and Playa Blanca. Waiters will call to you in the street to try and tempt you into their restaurant to eat the fresh catch of the day.

Those other fish that Julie mentioned include
Cantarero – scorpion fish
Cherne – stone bass
Dorada – sea bream
Gambas – shrimps
Gueldes – whitebait
Langostinos – prawns
Lapas – limpets
Lenguado – sole
Lubina – sea bass
Mejillones – mussels
Merluza – hake
Mero – grouper
Morena – moray eel
Medregal – amberjack
Pez Espada – swordfish
Pulpo – octopus
Sama – red sea bream
Vieja – parrot fish

The fresh fish of the day has often been caught by a small one or two man boat in the waters in front of the restaurant and has been gutted and cleaned on the nearby rocks, usually causing a Hitchcockian feeding frenzy of seagulls !

I was reminded of this article of Julie´s when reading an Lanceleot Digital, one of the island´s best known news providers, an interview Domingo Delgado Morin, The Honorary Advisor of the Spanish Fishing Industry, expressed the view that to remind inhabitants, and tourists, of all that the local fishing industry has given first to the survival of the island, and then to its growth and sustainability, it is deserving of a dedicated museum.

To make his point he looked back on the past forty five years of his life in the fishing industry.

I started working with the fishing sector in the Fishermen’s Association in 1979. At that time, there was a national purse seine fleet based in Lanzarote and a large number of industrial complexes were already parading around the island. And why in Lanzarote? Fishermen came from other ports, especially from those in the north and south of the peninsula through the fishing ground of the Saharan Canary bank, which was where the sardines were and the closest point was Lanzarote.
The canning industries soon became essential for the island economy. During the fishing boom in Lanzarote e in those years we had seven industrial complexes. And the phenomenon of the time is that in the fishing industries there were more women than men, who went fishing. They were more delicate to treat sardines. We got to have more than 55 fishing boats dedicated to sardines. Later the boats grew in length and there were fewer boats, but bigger ones. Entire families from the island and from Fuerteventura worked on the boats and in the canneries.

Domingo explained that, at first, most of the boats employed belñonged to the canneries.

Many were from the canneries themselves, but the crews were from here. Fishing was fundamental to the economy of the island. It is an essential part of our history. The importance of fishing on the island was so great that, thanks to it, Arrecife was created. A lot of people laugh when I say that, but it’s true, Arrecife didn’t exist. Arrecife began to form thanks to the fishermen who came to the Morro de la Elvira, to the Charco de San Ginés, to build their little houses, and the coastal fishing began to gather population. And then the buildings were made and the city was formed.

Charco de San Gines

Charco de San Gines, whether in bright sunlight or lit by the bright lights of the surrounding restuarants at night still reminds us of these days. There are often hundreds of brightly coloured one man boats tied up on the lagoon water, but Domingo thinks back ot he time the industry fell into decline.

When Spain entered Europe, it soon began to dawn on us that these fishing agreements between the EU and the countries in the area were very expensive and only benefited us, Spain, Portugal and little else. So the premiums for scrapping were increased and a very clear light was lit for our shipowners: apartments and hotels. And that was what happened… There was a ship, the Itchan Norte, which was one of the largest that passed through the island, it came from the Basque Country and had a capacity of 1,010 tons. That ship, when she led the decline of all this, when she was scrapped, she obtained a thousand and something million of the old pesetas. She had a sweet tooth.

I think it has become very clear now with the covid pandemic. Since the only thing on the island is tourism, since all the eggs are in the same basket, the island was completely paralyzed. The economy stopped working. Things didn’t go well back in the day. We cannot all dedicate ourselves to the same thing, there must be alternatives. I, as an honorary advisor to the Spanish Association of Fishing Cities, travel a lot and see how i-n many cities on the Spanish coast there are small companies that sell artisanal canned seafood products, complying with all health requirements. They are small industries that do not pollute and diversify. There is an FAO study that says that one job on a ship generates another five jobs on land due to the multiplier effect it has.

Domingo believes that more could be done to sustain and perhaps re-generate what is left of the industry. he explained to lancelot Digital how this might be done.

Right now there are no sardines left and only six tuna boats that, in my opinion, deserve a monument. Every time I have the opportunity to talk to a politician, I always say the same thing: help the tuna boats, don’t leave them alone because the community regulations put a lot of obstacles in their way. Tuna is a highly migratory species, the cathedral of reproduction of tuna is in the Mediterranean and when they are older they go through the Strait, they are located in Madeira and Azores, and depending on the temperature of the waters they go down to the Canary Islands. And if they don’t fish here, they go to Africa. Our tuna boats are totally artisanal boats that catch the pieces, one by one, and are only interested in the large pieces. The Koreans, for example, purse seine and trawl and end up with large tuna and pups, and everything they catch. Our tuna vessels are pole-and-line tuna vessels because they fish them with rods, one by one. The truth is that professional fishermen are attacked from all sides, they cannot fish in the Marine Reserve, for example, because the species must be protected and then they give 2,000 sport fishing licenses for tourism. Hopefully, after what happened with the pandemic, they reflect and diversify the economy.

In Lanzarote, the Playa Quemada cages were authorized for the fattening of tuna, which feed on small fish, and it is totally clean, but the businessman failed. So he changed the production to sea bream and sea bass, which is cheaper because feed is used, and therefore, chemical products. Between that and the excrement they generate, the contamination of the waters that we already know has occurred. If they had left them for tuna, nothing would have happened.

Domingo is aware that there are those who say that aquaculture is not for tourist destinations like Lanzarote.

That’s exactly what I’m saying. The first thing to do is study the area and its currents in detail. The bottom of these marine cages must be five meters, and great care must be taken with feeding and cleaning the area. You have to calculate the currents very well so that they do not carry possible dirt to the beaches. Another option would be inland aquaculture, which I have seen in many places and is successful and is carried out using salt flats. It would only be necessary to properly train the cookers, for sea bream and sea bass, or for the species that are decided, always with the precise sanitary control. It is an option, not only feasible, but also attractive from a tourist point of view. It could be done in the salt flats of Arrecife, in the ones below the cliff,
Believing that a budget was once created to so, Domingo believes that a Fishing Museum would help keep the history of the island alive, and might even attract tourists in a way that might result from the tourist industry proposal for a menu of niche holidays

Being head of services of the Fishing Department of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, worked hard to make a project for a fishing museum because I have always thought that if there is an island in the Canary Islands that deserves a museum for its trajectory and its history , that’s Lancelot. Some Catalan technicians came to do the proper study. It was thought at that time to do it in the old building of the Frigorsa factory. The project was measured and made. The idea was to divide it into three parts: exhibit all the pieces we had, including the Santa Teresa boat that museum visitors could board to see what a fishing boat was like inside; In addition, there was a room for extraordinary acts in which visitors and students from the island’s centers could be exhibited. videos of how the different species are fished on the high seas, from deep-sea fishing to surface and mid-water fishing; Upstairs there would be a large cafeteria, with little fish and seafood tapas… we spent about 60,000 euros on that project and it is tucked away in a drawer. In Brussels, moreover, there is money for the reconversion of the old factories into this type of centre, but we are not going to request it, I don’t know why.

Before we allow the contribution of the fishing industry to disappear from our island life, Domingo hopes there will be further exploration into any possibility that the fishing sector in Lanzarote could be restored to being an attractive industry to invest in.

The fishing sector in the Canary Islands will always be important. It is not understood that solutions have not been sought to modernize the fleet and adapt to the current situation. The shrimp from La Santa, which was not caught because it was not of interest, now has an astronomical price. There are many other species on the island that are not caught and are true delicacies. Let’s study what we have. Let’s not let the fishing sector die completely.

After all this talk of artisanship we would do well to remember that the work of our artists, both in preserving a past, and envisioning a future, could be of huge importance. in delivering on Domingo´s dream.

Nevertheless, all this is being spoken of in uncertain times.

According to Lampoon magazine, in an article headlined
A closer look at Lanzarote’s fishing industry
check out

Unperturbed by all this talk of quotas, boat size, crew capacity, registered waters and other things that mankind worries about, is the somewhat graceless but ruthlessly efficient Grey Heron currently making its home beneath the decking / bridge of Lani´s Snack Bar down at The Marina Rubicon in Playa Blanca.

Spending its day in the shade below where we eat a couple of times a week he (or she) only moves when hungry. With its long can opener, I mean beak, and its splayed feet it wobbles across when seeing pieces of bread falling into the water, dropped by diners feeding the fish. the fish might be in school (see what I did there?) but they never seem to learn their lesson and instead come in their hundreds, right up to the water´s edge to feed on crumbs from the tables. Old Grey Heron just dips his neck from time to time and picks out his three course lunch. That´s subsistence fish-farming and economy of cost and effort !

Of course, as one aspect of cultural tradition falls away so do other aspects linked to them. Without a fishing industry how few generations of the future will learn those wonderful place names, that somehow always were read as creating, and stepping into, darkness. I uses to listen to the shipping forecast, as if it were an episode of Doctor Who as it conjured up the menace of howling gales and mountainous seascapes.

That Lanzarote cherishes its fishing industry is perhaps ios certainly reflected by the song repertoires of the local folk lore musicians. There are reminders, too, in the scoresn of small, one or two-man fishing boats moored on the beautiful San Gines lagoon in Arrecife. It was whilst sitting on the wall, one day, casually trying to count the number of boats that included a female name in their title, that I wrote Sixteen On The Water, the first lyric I wrote over here.

Similarly the rise and fall (that´s a tidal reference) of the UK Fishing industry can be traced through that country´s folk songs.

Created as the third in a series of Radio Ballads developed by Charles Parker, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger for the BBC Home Service between 1958 and 1964, Singing the Fishing (1960) centres on the herring fishery of Great Yarmouth.

In photography, film, text and radio, herrings regularly found themselves at the forefront of documentary innovation – testament to a once-shared, now lost sense of the fish’s cultural importance. The Radio Ballads were pioneering documentaries, fusing traditional music, newly composed songs and oral testimony.

The oral testimony in Singing the Fishing comes from the fisherman and traditional singer Sam Larner, from the village of Winterton, to the north of Caister-on-Sea, and from Ronnie Balls of Great Yarmouth. Balls, a skipper, is credited with being the first person to have recognised the potential of echo-sounders in herring fishing.

The BBC radio producer Charles Parker, inspired by the power of unmediated working class voices, was an early adopter of the portable tape recorders that emerged in the 1950s. Ewan McColl had worked in radical theatre – along with and married to Joan Littlewood – since the 1930s and had become increasingly drawn to folk music.

He was already on to his second wife when he met and fell in love with the young Peggy Seeger in 1956. She had come to the UK to transcribe music for the song collector Alan Lomax’ Folk Songs of North America. Anyone familiar with Lomax’ use of carried, but distinctly not intended as portable, tape recorders would have seen what could be done with the new machines.

Also known as Bolliton Sands, The Red Herring and Jolly Red Herring is a folk-song found in various forms and believed to be associated with the once-thriving herring-fishing industry in the North Sea. Several different variants of the song are known including a version of The Red Herrings which was collected at South Zeal. the shoals of herring

A film soundtrack always exists in two different states simultaneously. It can, of course, be consumed as a component part of a larger work of art – the film – but it is also always possible to listen to a soundtrack in isolation from its parent film, as a stand-alone album.

This gives soundtracks an inherent strangeness, an otherness. They create their own shadow-life: although the content is identical, the context renders the shadow different. A good soundtrack will function equally well as a backcloth for a film and as a listening experience in its own right. Whether or not a listener can participate in both sides of this dual existence depends on whether or not they have seen the film. Still, sometimes a soundtrack is so well-realised that you don’t necessarily need to participate in both sides.

Perhaps the magic of a good soundtrack comes from the tension implied by its two states, and you don’t always need to have seen the film to appreciate that tension. This is certainly the case with composer and fiddler Aidan O’Rourke’s score for the recent documentary film Iorram (Boat Song). Iorram, directed by Alastair Cole, is a deft, subtle and strangely moving portrayal of Gaelic-speaking Hebridean fishermen. Contemporary footage is underpinned by archival spoken material from nearly three-quarters of a century ago – a technique that gives the film its own double life.

It’s hard to imagine two more different places than New York and Great Yarmouth, but a film set in one recently helped to revive interest in a song about the other.

Inside Llewyn Davis, a movie by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a moody portrait of the US city’s folk scene in 1961. (I actually saw the film in the weirdly wonderful cinema in Todmorden about eight or nine years ago)

I was struck by one scene in which the central character, a young singer, Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, picks up his guitar and plays to his father, a former seaman now suffering from dementia, a song that had once been a favourite of his.

“Oh, it was a fine and pleasant day/ Out of Yarmouth harbour I was faring/ As a cabin boy on a sailing lugger/ For to go and hunt the shoals of herring,” he sings.

There is some fishy artistic licence at work here, however. The song, The Shoals Of Herring, could not have been an old favourite of Llewyn’s father, since it was only heard for the first time a couple of years before that film scene was set.

The Shoals Of Herring was written and recorded by Ewan Macoll and later covered by The as well as by The Clancy Brothers.

Check out the link below to check out to many more great songs about the fishing industry

When The Boat Comes In, as a book version, is definitely a good and useful companion to the uk tv series. It does not fully include every story line, but rather takes the main themes. In doing so it gives a deeper understanding of each of the main characters point of views, while still following the same general narrative. It becomes a fascinating view of the series creator’s subtly different shading of the characters behaviours from that on film. For instance in the TV series Jack seemed much closer to the Seaton family as a whole, even after him and Jessie broke up, almost to the point of obsession. In the book, he is friendly, especially with the mother, but gone are some of the more almost daily attempts to insert himself into their lives. The second and third book in the series continue the story up to the dramatic cliff hanger of the broadcast series second season. There is a fourth book written years later by James Mitchell’s son, Peter, but it picks up at a different point then the third televised season, called “Jack High”, and moves the mostly same group of characters with some additions in a different story direction (spoiler for television series 3).

The 3 books by James Mitchell are an interesting look into a different side of post WW1 Britain. Almost a flip side of Downton Abbey which shows a group of Upper Class basically decent people trying to navigate the social changes brought on by the war from the top of society. In ‘When the Boat Comes In”, you have working class people aspiring to move up based on financial achievement, their wits, and yes even merit. In telling us this it reminds us that industrialisation was casting a class divide throughout the country that was deemed by the politicians to be a land fit for heroes, as had been promised before the war ended.

It fits right in here to our musical fishing lines because of its title music that it seemed the whole nation was singing during the run of the series during the sixties. When The Boat Comes In (or “Dance Ti Thy Daddy”) is a traditional English language folk song, listed as 2439 in the Roud Folk Song Index. The popular version originates in North East England. An early source for the lyrics, Joseph Robson’s “Songs of the bards of the Tyne”,[1] published 1849, can be found on the FARNE archive.[2] In FARNE’s notes to the song, it is stated that the lyrics were written by William Watson in about 1826.

It was popularised as the theme tune of the 1970s BBC drama serial When The Boat Comes In, in an arrangement by the composer David Fanshawe.

That seems to be a verse that could have been sung by a working class father to his son, celebrating the success of the fishing industry. That is not to say the industry was risk-free.

Colin Lever and I wrote Fishes And Coal for our folk duo, Lendanear, in the early nineteen eighties. It tells the story of a miner and a fisherman comparing notes on job dangers and security, reviewing a fishing industry already well into decline and previewing a mining industry being beaten to its death. Their conversation takes place at a real pit head in Scotland, as the trawlerman tries to sell off his catch of the day to home-going pit-men on a Friday afternoon. The pit-head is no longer there !

Last Boat Home is another Warwick / Lever song and one of only three lyrics I have written since I retired here to Lanzarote seven years ago.

It is based on a tradition of house doors being painted a different colour if occupied by a widow of a man lost at sea from a fishing vessel.

The fishing industry is full of such inherent dangers, and to restore the industry to its former glory such dangers must be addressed and better health and safety regimes employed than those of the past.

You could also visit www.lendanearmusic to check out these songs

Whilst not exactly in the genre of music we are talking about here, it is well worth finding a copy of The One That Got Away on You Tube. Written and performed by the late Steve Goodman, this song about a lone fisherman out in his boat, serves as a metaphor today referring to how the island´s industry somehow was let off the hook !

There are many who believe the could now only be restored to its former glory by some kind of miracle. That reminds of the gorgeous song by British folk singer Alan Bell, who ran the Annual Fylde Folk Festival on what was once a thriving fishing region in the UK.

Alan wrote Bread And Fishes to recall the Biblical tale of the feeding of the five thousand and the song was recorded and featured in the live performances by tv folk group The Houghton Weavers. At the time my group, Lendanear, was performing low down on the local folk circuit Bread And Fishes was ubiquitous in the folk clubs.

Top folk band Skipinnish has paid tribute to the fishing industry on its forthcoming album Steer by the Stars with a new song entitled Last Of The Hunters.

The song traces different aspects of fishing history, and makes reference to various UK ports that were at one time bustling hives of activity, but are now, sadly, shadows of what they once were. The last verses of the song convey the determined strength in the industry, and the hope for the future, despite the adversity and the political mismanagement

The song was written by Skipinnish co-founder and ex-fisherman Angus MacPhail, from the Isle of Tiree. Angus’ father, the late Hector MacPhail, was a lobster fisherman, as was his uncle, Iain MacDonald. His brother Neil continues to fish crab and lobster from Tiree

Ranzo was the weekly closing song at the Tuesday night folk club at The Gallows Inn (so called, it was said at the time, because my group Lendanear ´died´ there every week). Ranzo was perhaps a general sea-faring song rather than specifically about the fishing industry. But forty odd years later I can still close my eyes, and hear the late Roy Barker, singing the line about ´the wild goose flying over the ocean´, and encouraging the audience to belt out the chorus. And when I open my eyes again io can see him, picture-perfect, standing unaccompanied , pint in hand, as he finished the song. He would raise his glass to us all,….´well sung folkies, well sung !¨

So, our top ten songs of the UK fishing industry reads

Sixteen On The Water by Norman Warwick
Singing The Fishing by various artists
The Shoals Of Herring by The Dubliners
When The Boat Comes In by Leslie Garrett
Fishes And Coal by Lendanear
Last Boat Home by Lendanear
The One That Got Away by Steve Goodman
Bread And Fishes by Alan Bell
Last Of The Hunters by Skipinnish
Ranzo by Steeleye Span

Still, though, Lanzarote continues to celebrate its industry and a Museum could certainly help us learn so much more. What a fantastic job it would be for somebody to collate.

In Other art forms, sculptures can be seen in places like Playa Honda and Peurto Callero, installed in public areas to commemorate Lanzarote´s relationship with the sea.

In fact, we reported recently, in an article still available in our archives, entitled Lanzarote Folk Set A Fine Example, that another fine piece of work has been installed in the centre of Playa Blanca.

The creator Cintia Machin , when unveiling her new work, made an emotional review of her personal life experience and her talks with the fishermen, who helped her sculpt the tribute.

“It is a work that humanizes the public space and gives a sense of place, that refreshes the memory and that connects more with the feeling of our people,” she explained

I think Cintia is right to speak of her work ´connecting with the feeling of our people´. I would go further, though, and suggest that her works offer any tourist who can find the ´time to stand and stare´ to understand a little more of Lanzarote and Canary Island tradition and what life was like for previous generations here, before the planes brought the visitors. Cintia´s installations speak of the dignity of the men who caught food out on an often volatile ocean, and she captures the quietude of the working men who wrote poetry too. In fact, another of her works, situated in Las Brenas, is a modelling of Victor Gopa, fisherman and poet.

Until recently, there was also a cemi-permanent exhibition, in Yaiza Centro de Artisania, of incredible metallic replicas of skeletons of some of the amazing creatures which can be found in the waters surrounding this island.. The exhibition has now moved elsewhere on Lanzarote, and if you see it you will be scared off for life from putting out to sea in your one man boat out with your rod

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