or millennia we have been drawn to the sea. For it’s endless possibilities, for it’s ability to challenge us, for the profit and bounty one can reap from the waves to the friendship that can be trusted and tested on the open ocean, we are drawn to those blue waters. Our ocean has always been a place where great endeavours have taken place, where boys become men, where men get tough and men get lost.
The local waters off the beach coastline of Krabi are no different. Yes they can have the appearance that they are calm and relaxing yet don’t let this fool you in moderate winds the Andaman ocean can be a rocky place. Nearly every year a few boats capsize in the greater Ao Nang area, almost every year at least a few souls take their last breaths on these blue waters, and every year the community which depends on these waters continues to thrive.
With the thousands and thousands of people coming to Krabi every year and this number continues to rise every year the demand for the famous cuisine continues to rise. A great number of people coming to Krabi are coming here to try the famous seafood of the region, barracuda, squid, red snapper, grouper, lobster and so on and so on. This increased demand for the local cuisines has lead to an explosion in the number of fishing vessels operating in these waters. With many an eager soul to man these vessels are in no shortage of tough labor, pulling nets, stringing lines, cleaning traps and preparing the great variety of sea creatures for their final destinations.
A particular desire in the tourist and local flavor is the desire for squid, the love of this varied and mystical creature is so alluring that it can be found in almost every street stall, restaurant and market. It comes in many forms, salted, dried, fresh, hot on the BBQ and much more, it’s a crowd favorite for both locals and tourists alike.
These alluring creatures come in all sizes and shapes, from the depths of the Atlantic ocean and the giant squid a mysterious creatures through to sink ocean going ships venturing out into the open ocean. To the smaller varieties who have translucent body but emit a variety of colors depending on their feelings and emotions. Squid are a most varied species of sea creatures and inhabit nearly every ocean. The interesting with these alluring creatures is how they are caught, without the traditional net method and the lack of a normal mouth (as fish posses) these creatures require a special method to capture and bring home to your plate.
This past month we had the luck and opportunity to take a trip on a local squid fishing vessel in order to learn how they do what they do and gain some insight into the lives of the people that work tirelessly to fill our plates.
Breaking the dawn on the calm beach of Klong Muang the many squid fisherman awake from their seaside tin shakes to prepare for the day and night to come. preparing batteries, bottles of gasoline, food and an occasional pack of cigarettes they being to pack their many boats for the upcoming night on the boats. They take off from land at 2pm daily and venture to the deeper waters just outside the tidal shelf which surrounds the coastline. Good squid fishing occurs in water between 15 meters and 40 meters so the boatmen don’ have the venture too far out to sea in order to fill their hulls.
The boats fish with use a most interesting method to coax squid to rise from the darkness below. With squid attracted to light the boats have been rigged up with an obvious solution; high powered light bulbs connected to a generator make up the majority of the fishing bait. The light bulbs are strung out on 2 arms which extend out on either side of the boat making the boat look like air airplane with it’s wings illuminated as it glides through the waves.
The boats make the journey to the fishing grounds nightly and are packed to the brim with able-bodied fishermen, some boats can have a crew up to 25 people at one time. Keep in mind these boats are no longer than 15 meters, so there is a lot of traffic going on at all times on these vessels. There is some sort of order to this chaotic environment as the men aboard these vessels seem to just work as a solid unit, nobody is bumping into one another, they all have a job and place and follow their duties as a cohesive unit.
The vessels trawl the fishing grounds until their hulls are full or until the sun comes up, whichever is first. That being said a number of the more courageous crews will brave the days at sea in the intense heat of the afternoon sun to avoid returning to shore until their cargo container is full. These times at sea can last up to 14 days.
Once back at shore the men jump to work processing their catch. Some end up on the massive drying racks which dot the beach air and sun drying their catch for longer preservation. Some are kept on ice and are brought to market for sale to resorts, locals and hotels.
The crews aboard the vessels will typically be given a percent of the daily catch (less boat expenses and owners salary) this amount can end up being only 200THB/head in some cases.
The world of Squid fishing is something to behold, grueling working condition for rather low wages. These are the men that give us the chance to taste the bounty of the sea. Next time you order some squid, think of the hard working men who made it possible.