DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Social Aspects:   OF FISH AND FISHERMEN  

 

The Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru is amazingly productive, in both fish and in varieties of shellfish known collectively as mariscos.  It is true that El Niño years are poor ones on the northern coastline, and that many species have been overfished, here as elsewhere.  It is also true that farming of salmon and other sea creatures is becoming of increasing importance, especially in the protected fjords of southern Chile.  But the fishing lifestyle (pesqueria) is in the blood of many coastal dwellers, and although far from an easy way to make a living, it is colorful.

 

Starting in the south, near the town of Hequi.  In the more protected reaches of the fjords, many fishermen do not need a large boat to make a living. Click to see big picture (640x410 pixels; 118 KB)
And occasionally it is possible to fill a rowboat, but this is less common as the years go by. Click to see big picture (640x386 pixels; 82 KB)
A scene from west of Ancud, Chiloe.  Here the rowboats are largely used to reach larger craft, more suited to the open ocean. Click to see big picture (640x402 pixels; 113 KB)
Small, but very sturdy, the typical fishing boat of southern Chile is painted yellow, and is strong enough to lay on land during low tide. Click to see big picture (640x354 pixels; 81 KB)
Unloading the wife.  This is a form of "Chiloe Chivalry". Click to see big picture (640x348 pixels; 95 KB)
Unloading sheep appears to be done with more care. Click to see big picture (640x451 pixels; 147 KB)
Although not common, fish traps are also used in some areas, such as this scene from near the town of Maullin, west of Puerto Montt. Click to see big picture (640x362 pixels; 73 KB)
Farther north, there are few natural harbors along the coast, and breakwaters are often required.  This is at the desert town of Chañaral. Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 116 KB)
With fish processing plants to consume the productivity of the Humboldt Current, many of the fishing craft on the north coast are larger and more business-like. Click to see big picture (310x480 pixels; 36 KB)
Back in the south, where much of the catch winds up in local markets.  This is the elongated but delicious Congrio (Genypterus sp.) related to the Conger Eel, and formally referred to as Cusk Eels. Click to see big picture (506x480 pixels; 103 KB)
But many of the boats are not fishing, they are out for other sea creatures, typically a variety of shellfish and other bottom dwellers collectively called mariscos. This ship is bundling clams, known as Almejas, of which there are several species. Click to see big picture (633x440 pixels; 120 KB)
Scallops or Ostion (Argopecten purpuratus) are indigenous to the Atacama Coast, but have largely been wiped out there.  They are now farmed in southern Chile. Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 81 KB)
In the remote bay of Rio Inio in southwest Chiloe, workers brave the cold surf to collect surf clams or Machas (Mesodesma donacium). Click to see big picture (640x365 pixels; 80 KB)
Most of these wind up in dishes such as Machas Parmesana for the well-to-do in the cities.  The long-suffering shell itself on the right. machas
Another morsel from the waters of southern Chile are these sea snails, marketed simply as Caracols. The banded shells appear to be Tritons, likely one of the species of Agrobuccinum, known as Tritons.. caracol
A locally enjoyed marisco in southern Chile is the Keyhole Limpet or Lapa (Fissurella sp.) whose colorful shells litter the beaches of Chiloe.  They may be found on the entire Pacific coast of Peru and Chile. Click to see big picture (633x398 pixels; 130 KB)
There are many species of Crustaceans.  Some look a little strange, but most are likely good eating.
The Chilean Sea Urchin or Erizos del Mar (Loxechinus albus) are highly prized by many.  Let us just say that it is an "acquired taste".  Chilean Urchins range from green to red in color. Click to see big picture (619x480 pixels; 86 KB)
It is actually the urchin's gonads which are eaten, sort of post nasal in consistency.
Shucking Piures at the coastal town of Bucalemu.  Pyura chilensis is a vaguely edible tunicate or sea squirt that tries to look like a rock or lump of mud.  The red meat inside has a strong iodine taste which is unaccountably attractive to some people. piures
The fish market in Puerto Montt presents an immense variety of sea life. Click to see big picture (640x392 pixels; 116 KB)
The nearest item on the table above are the giant barnacles, the delicious Picorocos (Austromegabalanus psittacus) which can reach heights of 30 cm. Click to see big picture (413x480 pixels; 71 KB)
A peek into the mouth of a giant Picoroco, guarded or aided by a pair of pinchers.
Another delicious giant is the huge, shallow water mussel of the coasts of Chile and southern Peru.  It is called Choro Zapato, Choromytilus chorus, and yes, that is a standard sized dinner plate. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 70 KB)
There is a sadder tale to another tasty marisco known as Locos (Concholepas concholepas). These gastropods are carnivorous and cannot be farmed.  They are badly depleted, and there are laws restricting collection, which has spawned a black market. Click to see big picture (600x462 pixels; 95 KB)
Here, in a remote coast in Fray Jorge Park, Loco fishermen shuck their illegal catches, creating an entire beach of Loco shells. Click to see big picture (640x441 pixels; 179 KB)
But this is neither fish nor mariscos that is being unloaded from boats and hauled off in giant trucks.  Thanks to Erasmo Macaya it has been identified as Huiro Palo (Lessonia trabeculata), a form of kelp found along the coasts of Peru and Chile.  Its widespread harvesting may well prove an ecological disaster to coastal fish populations. cochoyuyo
A closer look at Huiro Palo.  It is mainly shipped to the Orient to bulk up various lotions, creams, foods etc. cochoyuyo
Of course, not all fishermen are commercial, in Chile and Peru as elsewhere, it is a popular sport. Click to see big picture (640x435 pixels; 111 KB)
In fact, most of those depending on fish, such as these cormorants, are in conflict with fishermen for a dwindling resource. Click to see big picture (318x465 pixels; 43 KB)
Here a Peruvian pelican shows off its Kamikaze style of fishing. Click to see big picture (394x480 pixels; 108 KB)

And the sea mammals such as these South American Sea Lions ( Otaria flavescens) are especially resented by fishermen because of the large amount of fish they consume and their supposedly protected status.  Locally known as the "lobo del mar de un pelo".

Click to see big picture (535x480 pixels; 106 KB)
The skeletons of pelicans and other seabirds are common along the coastline Click to see big picture (640x413 pixels; 121 KB)
And the remains of sea mammals are far from uncommon.  Click to see big picture (640x316 pixels; 87 KB)
What percentage of these were killed by fishermen is unknown. Click to see big picture (628x448 pixels; 126 KB)