When did you start fishing?
My father taught me when I was a boy. For ten years, we used to go deep sea fishing together. It’s a tough job, and hard work; you have to know everything about it before you can go out on your own. I left it for a couple of years and did dhow trips for tourists, but after that I returned to fishing.
If it’s so hard, why did you go back?
People always want fish. Tourism is seasonal and is affected by a lot of outside factors, but the need for food is constant. And you can get good money for fish. But we’re very dependent on the market: the price of fish goes up and down depending on availability, and the quantity other fishermen have caught.
What’s a normal fishing day?
We set off at 4.30am. You have to get out before the sun rises because the fish like cooler waters, and when the sun gets hot and warms the surface of the sea, they go deeper and are much harder to catch. We have several fishing locations ranging from Kiwayu near the Somali border to North Coast Bang, which is what we call the coral reef near Malindi. We choose our fishing location depending on what we want to catch. Sometimes we go as much as 20 miles from Lamu, but tuna, kingfish and wahoo are usually found closer to the reef, only three or four miles from Lamu.
How do you decide what you want to catch on a particular day?
I have a few special clients, including Midnight Seafood. My clients tell me what they want before I go out and I try to fulfil their orders. This makes it much easier when I get back to Lamu. If I’ve caught what my clients asked for, I call them when I get to shore, and sell directly to them. If I’ve caught fish that no one has requested, I have to take it to the fish market in Lamu town and try to sell it there.
What fish do you particularly like to catch?
Tuna. The tuna eat sardines from the bottom of the sea; the sardines flee from the tuna, rising to the surface and attracting the sea birds that also like to eat sardines. When we see a flock of birds converging on a certain area, we know there are tuna there. We use a hook known as Rapala that looks like a live fish, and we have to keep the boat moving all the time as we drag the hook while looking for the sea birds. It’s much more interesting and enjoyable than catching snapper, for which we have to anchor the boat and use bait, and there are no birds to show us where the fish are. Also, tuna grows up to 10kg, whereas snapper is usually only one or two kg, so you have to catch a lot more snapper to make the same amount of money you’d make on the same weight of tuna.
Have you had any really scary moments while you’ve been fishing?
Three: twice when I was out in a sailing dhow and once in my current boat, LamuUber. Each of these times, we went out when the weather was fine and the sea calm, but suddenly a storm hit. We couldn’t see where we were going and the sea became incredibly rough. It was terrifying.
To buy Eco Love’s fish in Nairobi, contact Midnight Seafood on 0726 026514 or firstname.lastname@example.org