Friday 26 March 2010

Whale Whispers



When I was discharged from hospital in Cape Town after The Big Fright with jelly legs and strict instructions to rest up until I was allowed to fly back to England, I would spend lazy zen-like days gazing out to sea from my splendid eyrie above the rocks in Bantry Bay.  One morning, while I was idly watching a gull soar and dip in graceful circles against the flawless blue of an African sky,  something dark caught my eye slightly further out to sea.  At first I thought it was a boat silhouetted against the glitter light of the sea.  Then it lifted its distinctive tail and waved.  Waved right at me - of that I am certain. A Southern Right whale had come into Table Bay in early March…..especially for me.   She stayed out there blowing and tumbling and waving for almost an hour.  Three or four boats sailing in the bay spotted her and carefully came in for a closer look.  A final wave and a blow to us all and she was gone.

Just after she disappeared, my cell phone rang.  It was our daughter, Georgie, calling from England to check how I was doing.  I told her with breathless excitement about the Southern Right just out in the bay..…right slap bang in my line of vision.  “That was Fifa and G’Pa,” she replied calmly and firmly.  “They are sending a message of love and encouragement to you, Mama.”  Fifa and G’Pa are the names the then 14 month-old  Georgie had given my mother and father and, yes, I’m sure she was absolutely right.  “Keep on keeping on, darling girl,” was their message.

Now I’m going to ask you all a big favour by urging you to also keep on keeping on by doing something proactive - no matter how tiny -to help conserve the oceans both for ourselves and for future generations.

I recently watched, with stunned horror, a documentary called The End of the Line about the crisis in the world’s fish stocks and the future of marine life.  Filmed around the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish markets –  The End of the Line truly is a wake-up call to the world. The gruelling truth  is that if fishing continues in the mostly unsustainable manner in which it does today, there will be no more fish in the sea by 2048. A chilling thought.

Jamie.two oceans.ct Our grandson, James, gazes in wonder at life under the sea (Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town 2010)

This film should be compulsory viewing for everyone – particularly for those who enjoy eating fish and for those who want to preserve the beauty and sea life of our oceans. Imagine – no more sushi or freshly caught fish grilled over the coals……and swimming in seas full of jelly fish is just no fun! I simply cannot imagine a world without fish, but if things continue at today’s speed, it will be a reality in our lifetime.

turkey.June09 057Seabream, Funchal  Fish Market – Madeira 2009

A friend on her annual family summer holidays in the Finnish Archipelago, recently told me that it had really stuck them how the impact that overfishing has had in the Baltic – no more fishing off the pier because the waters are empty, and there were many days when they couldn’t swim because of the algae blooms in the water.

zan30Waiting for the catch – Zanzibar, April 2008

Globally there is mass unemployment due to unsustainable fishing. Take for example the traditional fishing villages on the Senegalese coast, where huge international trawlers sweep kilometres of ocean at a time, decimating the coral reefs and throwing away much of their unwanted dead catch back into the sea. We have all seen photos of many of those unemployed local fishermen in the papers – boatloads of them crossing the Med to try and find work in Europe.

sey.65.feb10 Sunset Beach, Mahé, Seychelles – February 2010

When Guy and I were in the entrancing Seychelles in February, we were appalled to see the harbour on Mahé chock full of enormous Japanese owned Tuna Trawlers which towered menacingly over the colourful local fishing boats.  This must surely mean that these island jewels in the middle of the Indian Ocean could face the same fate as places such as Senegal or the Finnish Archipelago.

Struisbaai harbour, Cape Agulhas, South Africa - February 2010 Fishing boats in Struisbaai Harbour – Cape Agulhas, South Africa 2010

It really is within our power to do something about this - and I’m absolutely sure many of you already do:

  • Only buy fish from sustainable sources – always ask your fishmonger/supermarket fish counter for fish which has been sustainably caught. The supermarkets are cottoning on - look for the MSC logo or Good Catch label on the packet.
  • Don’t eat endangered fish which many restaurants still serve – bluefin tuna for example is on the same endangered list as are the panda and the tiger – and I’ll bet you wouldn’t dream of eating either of those!
  • Try and avoid farmed fish, because farmed fish need 5kg of fish meal (from generally trawled fish) for every 1kg of fish produced!


If we all act now and spread the sustainable word, then hopefully everyone will still be swimming in beautiful oceans full of fish in 2048 and our children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy the pleasures of the watery world.

Alex.Goa Alex – Goa 2008


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a most thoughtful and inspiring post.
I loathe great big fishing boats that do the small local fishermen out of business.

This really is something to think about
and hopefully do something about.

Rosaria Williams said...

Excellent reminder that our world is being threatened right in front of us. We need to wake up and get involved in finding solutions.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I love fish but am definitely eating less of it as I try to keep to the sustainable mantra. Mackerel seems to be ok but you do run out of things to do with mackerel after a while. Any ideas?

Madame DeFarge said...

Great post and very thought provoking, Kind of makes me glad that I don't actually like fish. There are similar problems in the north of Scotland with the fishing industry, but there is so little other work for them to do.

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

Thank you. Vital information.

Irene said...

I didn't know that about farmed fish. I suppose I will check where my salmon comes from. Good post, Tessa.

Lori ann said...

Sending hugs and lots of love, be well Tessa dear.
thank you for sharing this, with all the good information and beautiful photos.

Reya Mellicker said...

Your daughter is very wise. The whales are on your side, indeed. Sending love and warmth and healing energy.

Caroline said...

Thank you for this informative post Tessa. Your photos are superb as always! Hope you are keeping well.

L'Adelaide said...

tessa, these are words very much needing to be heard...even over here, the pacific seems to be without it's salmon ... i wonder if we will see those trawlers in SF bay one day...wouldn't surprise me since they are right on the inside of the boundary, from what i hear...i do feel so sorry for the fishermen and women..and want my grandbabies to not be forced to experience the wonders of the sea through the walls of an aquarium and that's all.

hoping you are getting stronger with each day and seeing that whale is a wonderful omen for you.

xxx said...

Thank you for taking the time to share all of this.

truely beautiful xx

Anonymous said...

I love this. Thank You :) I will do my bit too.

Linda Sue said...

Thanks Tessa, honorary mermaid! We are well aware of the ocean facts up here- we live on puget sound- we see ,daily almost, changes in earths life blood, we do not eat farmed fish or shrimp or anything from the sea that is not sustainable plus we are careful to not eat too much, fish too much or flush medicines down the toilet or sink- that is quite a concern here as well , hormones and most medications do not break up in the sewage system.We realize too well that it is broken, we are careful and the fishermen up here are aware but still rationalize "have to make a living"...
Whales are abundant, Orcas, we see them frequently- always awesome and other worldly- as in Godish! I was told one time by a dream analysis that whales are god and they come to you when you most need it. Yours is a whale of a tale and Yes, I agree with your daughter...
I do hope that you are doing well now. You are such a love bug!

Sarah Lulu said...

I am with you ...the oceans need protection ..

And your wonderful spirit was acknowledged by a wave from a whale!

Tristan Robin said...

Thoughtful and inspirational post - thank you!

Ces Adorio said...

Ohhh what a handsome and cute boy. How are you my beautiful African friend? Oh I remember your handsome father's photograph.

Not sure which fishes are sustainable out there elsewhere but we only eat wild caught halibut and salmon from Alaska. The salmon are troll caught and they are caught by lines individually. They are shipped to us overnight by Federal Express and the fish merchant gives me discount because I have been a loyal customer for the past four years. That is all we eat plus the fish that my husband and son catch from their fishing trips. My son is a very good sports fisherman. He catches and releases the really big ones so they can spawn. I have a picture of him with a 14-pound catfish that he caught and released on my blog.

Oh lucky lucky you to see whales. The Japanese are atrocious for overfishing the world's seas.

Take care dearest Tessa.

* said...

I'm new to your blog. Love your "bad poet" self description in your "about me" side bar.

(I think I'm the same!)

Great reminders in this post, and lovely pics as well.

Beth Kephart said...

An incredible post — the photo of the whale tail and of your grandson: Oh, gosh, Tessa.

I'm with your daughter, on the origin of the whale.

And I'm with you on the seas.

Debra Keirce said...

Tessa - I'm doing my part. I'm a vegan. What a beautiful whale tale! I feel like renting "Free Willy" now! Glad to hear you are out of the hospital and doing well!

Eleonora Baldwin said...

You had me at Whale Whispers.
Flukes in Bantry Bay... that's my dream come true, Tessa. They came to heal you and teach you how to wave your ails away. I am so moved by this.

How are you, my darling African dreamer? I'm sending waves of good energy and love to you.

Our oceans and seas are suffering. Your inspiring reminder and precious information are vital in the saving process.

Love you,

Caroline said...

Thanks for stopping by! Yes we did miss you! You postings are always so wonderful, this one is awesome. I am always thinking of ways to improve what we do that can help our mother earth! I am so for local produce and food, keeping our foot print down!
I reuse and recycle everything! It is wonderful knowing & sharing the messages! Once you know better, you do better! Caroline

Carol said...

I am happy to be able to say that I already do this!! I've seen the impact these practices have had on small communities in Thailand so always insist on knowing where my fish has come from!!

Your story of the whale was beautiful!!

C x

Val said...

wonderful post Tessa! i do hope you are doing well now? the whale tale is fabulous. so glad they came to greet you.

Mim said...

I've wondered what to do about the overfishing and the Japanese fishing boats worry me. Yes, we can all buy from sustainable sources...but what about those Japanese boats?

Anyway, lovely pictures - especially that woman in the pink dress.

Hope you are well.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking post - thanks.
End Of The Line made me feel ill. I immediately thought of all the people who sanctimoniously refuse to eat red meat and chicken or turkey and condescendingly tell you they only eat fish because it's the healthier option. Yea right!!! and what now that there are nearly no fish left. . . .

Breathtaking whale tail pic!! Others lovely too

Tessa said...

I would like to thank you all, from the very heart of me, for your erudite and profoundly thoughtful comments on this post. I feel enormously privileged - and happy - to have this bloggy connection with each and every one of you.

I apologise - once again - for not having replied to each of you individually, but the medical treatment I'm currently undergoing is extremely enervating and I'm simply not able to garner enough 'mojo' to do what I want to do for any length of time. Infuriating! In the meantime I send the warmest of warm wishes to everyone who took the time to comment on this enormously important issue. Long live our oceans!! xxxx T

karen said...

Very disturbing thought about 2048. Overfishing is also a problem here, with cheap Chinese nets doing their damage..

I do hope you are keeping well?

Polly said...

Thank you for this post, this is such an important message to remember especially that you are right, we can all do our bit to save the oceans...

I hope you feel better soon!

ArtSparker said...

Overpopulation is the root cause of this and of all environmental problems. I'm not sure how you can convince people to have less babies, unfortunately.

Unknown said...

Bravo, Tessa! A truly excellent post. D won't fish at all for this very reason, I eat fish only very, very sparingly. Having grown up dropping a line over the side of my father's boat as a child, having snorkelled in the turquoise lagoons of the Indian ocean, I cannot imagine a world without fish.

Ces Adorio said...

Sometimes I close my eyes and I imagine you there and all I want to do is to give you a kiss on your head and that's it.

Karin Bartimole said...

You've shared this message in a powerful and persuasive way Tessa - thank you for being such an advocate for positive change on this planet! As a strict vegetarian I don't impact the fish through eating, but I find myself worrying and thinking about how I impact the oceans by receiving chemo and wonder how much exits my body, along with thousands of others?! It's really got me thinking about all the medications that enter and exit our bodies, and how that might impact our waterways, and all that live within...

Ces Adorio said...

I was thinking of you and Karin today. I thought I'd tell you that. How are you my dearest Tessa? Tsup!

Ivy and Haley said...

An AMAZING post with beautiful pictures! You life looks beautiful.

Come visit me.


Doctor FTSE said...

Our BBC Radio 4 reminded us not long ago that "A wild salmon 18 months old is a few centimeters long. A farmed salmon 18 months old has already been eaten."
Farmed salmon tastes about the same as margarine. Or maybe I mean axle grease.