Resilience through the eyes of fishermen, Mengistu Christian – who has been earning a living on the ocean for more than a decade – took Observer media out on the water to offer an intimate insight into the resilience he says is innate within fishermen

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Story and photos by Shahein Fitzpatrick

Ever since he was a child, Mengistu Christian had a passion for fishing. Now 41, his childhood hobby has become his profession.

Christian catches mainly snapper, by long line fishing, shallow pot fishing and deep pot fishing. 

He told Observer that the coronavirus pandemic has inspired more people to engage in the activity as a means of feeding themselves.

“More people out there for sure,” he said. “However fishing is such a funny industry. You might think you just go buy a boat and come out fishing, a nah so it go. 

“I have been fishing for 11 years now and I am still learning. First of all, your body has to adapt to the seas if you’re not accustomed. A person must also understand the technicalities it takes to fish effectively.”

He said many people in recent years have bought boats, but the unexpected challenges and realities of fishing have forced them to resell their vessels.

Christian, who displays a fearless character and says he finds pleasure being out in the deep, continued, “I am an adventurous person, I am a man who likes to live on the edge; to some degree fishing fulfils that excitement. I enjoy going out on the rough seas, taking risk.”

He revealed that the global pandemic has slowed down the exportation of fish and lobsters to his overseas clientele in neighbouring islands.

Regardless of this shift in the market he stated, “Fishermen are resilient people and we know how to adjust and adapt to major changes. When a fisherman goes through his process of learning how to adapt to the ocean’s tough conditions, this experience molds you mentally into a very strong human being.” 

He continued, “Even though the market might slow down, because mentally fishermen are so strong, it hasn’t really affected them. Them mans find ways to go around and sell their fish. Most fishermen as far as I know, a’right.”

As Observer listened, Christian shared stories.

“One night me and two other partners went out fishing, we anchored and went to sleep, we thought to ourself yes, we sleeping so everything good, nice and calm. When we woke up in the morning, we saw vehicles on an island.

“We say, how in the world a we so close so Antigua? Because where we anchored you couldn’t see Antigua. Can you imagine we drifted down to St Kitts?”

Christian explained that he and his companions rested themselves early that night because the weather wasn’t suitable for fishing.

“We went to sleep early because the weather was bad. When we woke up, we can see vehicles pon the road and so, you can see light and so, man vehicle a come around hill and so. It was by God’s grace we make it; so much disasters could have happened to us,” he recalled.

Christian said fishermen are determined that when they go out into the unknown depths of the ocean, no matter what happens, they will make it back to the shore.

“When you go to sea, you have to go with the mentality that you’re coming back home by the hook or crook. I have gone to sea and my whole propeller and so on the back broke off, coast guard ended up coming for us. I have gone to sea, cruising as normal and me belch pump stop working.”

Christian added, “These are just the beginning of the crazy adventures we fishermen experience, so when I say we resilient, we resilient.”

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