Growing up, we would have 1 tin of canned sardines feed my family of 5 and if we could, would keep leftovers to have for breakfast in the morning.
We could also only afford to have canned fish once a week, the rest of the days was an alternating of Bull Brand (corned meat) and that Soy Mince gravy thing, and mostly the gravy without the ‘like mince’ happening.
Fish fingers and hake and other ‘real’ food was rarely accessible growing up. And one day I could afford to order myself fish at a restaurant and was so proud... fish has always been expensive.
Why am I sharing this? Because I recently went plant based and made the decision I would only have fish if I catch it or, if it is caught within the hands of the people I'm with, and on my most recent trip, further made a decision to support the local fishing people because this is how they made a living, putting aside my challenge with fish hooks.
I started spearing a few months ago and am incredibly proud of my learning and my efforts towards sustainable living.
However, on a recent dive, a human spoke of how spearing was wrong and how I should stop and eat beef and lamb because the fish populations have declined drastically and he knows because he speared for years and can now see the difference through all those years of spearing.
This is when I got triggered.
Every time the door opens and access becomes a possibility for Black people, we must shut the doors because once upon a time the sea was full and now its not and thus you can’t experience it.
I lived a large part of my life on canned fish, one day was so proud to be able to afford fish in a restaurant because Omega 3 and all the ‘good’ of fish, and now am learning to go to the source to get my food and at the pinnacle am told, ‘sorry phelile’ (finished).
Black people have seen their resources too, be spent and charred to near obliteration, and when access becomes possible for us too, we are told that the world has consumed it all, and we were clearly not part of ‘the world’.
A lady on a spearing group once said ‘ever since the locals got spearing guns, there’s no more fish’. She is also a human that arrives with a boat on seas that aren’t hers, shoots more than one fish per day on her trips and stacks her freezer full. So spearing is okay when some do it all but it's not okay if it's open and accessible to all. I mention one fish a day because maximums circle us back to empty oceans.
Rules that are okay depending upon who does it. The bane of my existance.
And no, the story doesn’t end in favour of the empowered local, it’s only okay if the ‘kind’ guest caught the fish FOR the local.
Im also upset because the day there is economic access for Black people to see and witness the Sardine run, we are again going to be told that, the fumes from years of boats going up and down these waters means no more boat trips can happen and the sardine run doesn’t even happen anymore, ‘we’ve depleted the resource’, and again, we shrug our shoulders and go home.
When do Black people get to witness their natural wonders too? Also spear and be able to feed their families without needing to pay exorbitant amounts for fish and meat at shops?
In these efforts of saving seas and saving oceans and saving the planet, what is to be said for Black people who have traditionally not been contributors to the mess we find ourselves in?
Protect the seas we must, but we must also protect its people. Any and all environmental crisis’ are a problem first to Black people because tinned sardines with less nutrients affects us first because supplements are expensive, genetically modified options and hormone injected animals and the after effects affect us first because in the larger sense, we don’t have jacked up medical aids for the many procedures that the world of Chemical bombs is encouraging.
Each time I drive past Khayelitsha alone, I cry because I can’t fathom how humans are living here, where too much rain and peoples homes slide down the sand.
So as the climate warms and the oceans are fished out and sharks are killed, at the end of this will be more of conservation efforts that look to include and validate the minority while looking down at the majority, passing down the next bill of laws to govern our existence, around our oceans, for problems we didn’t cause.