THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Fish gone to the Far East
Where have all the flying fish gone?
If you are a fish eater like me, that’s a question you too, would like to have answered.
Some years ago, when the flying fish first disappeared from Barbados’ waters, our fishermen soon discovered where to find them. They could sail to Tobago with eyes closed and be back in Barbados with boats brimming with the local delicacy in a matter of days.
Then the Trinbagonians, who previously had no particular liking for our winged fish friends, realized they were a commercial opportunity just waiting to be exploited and it wasn’t long before our fishermen found themselves being arrested, imprisoned and charged with illegally fishing in the waters of the twin-island republic.
Coincidentally, while the ships of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard were rounding up our boats, tons of frozen flying fish, were landing at our airport to be sold in our fish markets and supermarkets.
That led to the still unresolved attempt to establish a fishing agreement between T&T and Barbados.
However, as fate would have it, we soon heard a loud groan from Tobago that the flying fish had also disappeared from their waters. They did not return to our own waters and, just a few nights ago, a local fisherman was on TV predicting that the ever-present jack fish may soon replace the flying fish as the national fish of Barbados.
So where are the flying fish hiding or to where have they flown now that so very few can be found in these parts? Are there other countries to which we can turn in an attempt to prevent our traditional meal of flying fish and cou cou from having to be replaced by jacks and cou cou?
Unfortunately, our fishermen will not be able to do the job for us unless they are able to convert their sailing boats into flying boats. The reason is that the Far East is where the flying fish are to be found.
I realized this one night while watching another programme on CBC-TV 8 in which Rosemary Alleyne interviewed a young Barbadian woman living and teaching in China while she was on a trip to that country.
In answer to a question about how she was adapting to having to eat only Chinese food, the woman shocked me when she replied that everything she had grown up eating in Barbados was available in China, including flying fish. Wuh?
A few checks soon enlightened me to the fact that Barbados and Tobago are not the only countries with flying fish. In fact, flying fish are also commercially fished in places like Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, the Solomon Islands and India. Moreover, in Japan the roe (eggs) is very popular in the making of some types of sushi and is also served as a form of caviar referred to as Tobiko.
So now we know where to find flying fish.
The big question is, how do we get to catch them all the way up in the Far East?