Fishing Tragedy

Many of us may forget that Lagos has a flourishing fishing fleet which is something to be celebrated. Sadly though, with this industry often comes tragedy. Today the local fishing community is mourning the loss of a young fisherman, Nuno Calvinho, who tragically died in September.

I speak to his Aunt, Ana Calvinho, who is mourning the loss of her nephew, who she describes as “intelligent and funny; who never said a bad word about anyone.” She is also terribly concerned about her brother, who is devastated about the loss of his only child. “My brother Jaime Calvinho lost everything in his life in the early hours of the 29th of September.”

At 3.30 am on that fateful morning, the fishing vessel Vagamundo do Mar, capsized 3 km from the coast off Salema. There were six fishermen on the 10m long boat, including Jamie and his 23-year-old son. They were returning to harbour with a haul of sardines and mackerel when, without warning, the boat turned onto its side. All the crew were catapulted into the water, but Nuno was driving the boat and was trapped in the driving cabin and tragically drowned.

“My brother in a matter of seconds, lost everything. In addition to the death of his only son, best friend, comrade, companion and right-hand man. He also lost his only way of subsistence!”

Nuno was a sixth-generation fisherman. His Grandfather Manuel moved to Lagos from Vila Real de Santo António when he was three. Although he wanted to study, he started work on the fishing boats aged ten. Ana says, “My father is incredibly intelligent and loves to read and is interested in politics. Back then there was no opportunity to go on to further education. But he is still self-taught and very educated.”

In those days Ana tells me that there were no electric motors or winches. The boats were dragged down the beach in Lagos and all the nets were cast in and out by hand. Jaime followed his father onto the boats at the age of 14 and in time Manuel designed the Vagabundo with an engineer. They embarked on the more modern fishing technique of Pesca do Cerco. A circular net is cast and then dragged up with winches, which catches the fish that swim in shoals like Sardines and mackerel.

Nuno did not initially wish to follow his father onto the fishing boat and studied computer science and programming. Over time though, he began to find it boring and quit before the end of the course. So his father encouraged him to work with him and he used his technical skills to start designing technological improvements for the boat. He dreamed, in the future, of implementing more modern fishing techniques.

Ana says, “I never heard him raise his voice. He was calm and very intelligent. He was always one to offer advice. I think he had vision. Nuno was always joking and very positive with a lot of friends.”

This tragedy is even harder to bear because none of the family can explain what happened. The sea was calm and the boat had previously carried heavier catches in rough seas, so no one knows why it capsised in these conditions.

I ask Ana if her brother, now 49, wants to go out in the boat again, “I asked him about it and he wants to implement the changes his son dreamed of. He is so deep in grief he only leaves the house to work on the boat, which has been salvaged and is in Doca Pesca in Portimão. I think getting the boat running again and continuing the family legacy is the only thing that he has to live for.”

Knowing that her brother cannot afford the repairs, Ana has started a page to raise money to salvage the boat, which needs new engines, repairs to the mast, new navigation equipment and repairs to all the electrics. Her goal is to raise 100,000€ to give her brother his life back.

She concludes, “Please help a family of six generations of fishermen to have hope again.”


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