A small fish dying from asphyxiation.
Images by Stefano Belacchi.
We Animals Media recently collaborated with photojournalist Stefano Belacchi to document the fishing industry in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sea Shepherd activists destroying illegal Fish Aggregating Device (FAD).
We Animals Media: What was the experience like of trying to capture what was happening with the Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and the fishermen?
Stefano Belacchi: I could not have imagined how they (FADs) are so spread all around the Tyrrhenian Sea — thousands of empty bottles and plastic tanks scattered for hundreds of kilometers and fixed to the seabed by a plastic rope. Fishermen were quite rude, when they would see us around FADs they would start yelling at us, likely nervous we might cause them legal trouble. FADs are not allowed and fishermen are not supposed to be fishing around them… we were a bit scared about how they might react to our presence.
Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) in Thyrrenian Sea. Oftentimes, poachers construct them from used, empty chemical containers.
WAM: What do these images show?
SB: Some images show FADs. A FAD looks like a very simple and harmless device. If you meet one on the sea you might think it’s just a buoy or some abandoned trash, but the rope that affixes it to the seabed is a serious threat for sea mammals, turtles and large fishes (each FAD has a rope measuring 1-3 km). The device creates a shade in high sea and attracts fishes so that fishermen can easily catch them with nets.
Other images show the fish – how they are killed and slaughtered before being displayed in the markets. I saw fishes choking, spreading their mouth in desperate hope of one last breath, many slaughtered while still conscious.
Fisherman demonstrating fish slaughter to tourists.
WAM: What do you hope people get when they see the images?
SB: I mainly saw small fishing boats owned by just one or two people, and while many people think this is a sustainable way of fishing, it’s not. Every day the Mediterranean Sea becomes less populated. Fishermen in this area are catching fewer and fewer fish, and this is an area where there are not big companies with huge oceanic boats. We have simply eaten almost all the fish and we did it by fishing this way, with hundreds – thousands – of small, family-owned boats.
Fish live in places we can’t visit, they have different bodies and behavior. It’s not easy to empathize with them, but I hope everyone starts to consider a fish as a living being. They suffer, their will to live is the same as every other animal, their fight for freedom is strong and brave, even if ineffective.