Sweet Trawling Dreams

Often reviled, North Sea trawling faces overfishing and the domestication of the ocean. A perspective from the South reveals the gruelling magical realism of fishers´ lives, fishy empathies and salted being. North Sea trawling could be regarded as a characteristically Northwestern European approach to relations with wildlife: it is a highly industrialized and capitalistic form of fishing, which has been reviled for its destructive character. After booming in the 70s and 80s the industry is waning due to the combination of overfishing and economic burdens, aggravated by pollution, and the impending domestication of the ocean. Aquaculture net cages increasingly proliferate in the North Sea and even marine protected areas are densely crossed by oil pipelines and communication cables or are dominated by windfarms. Aiming towards a decolonization of thought from a Latin American mestizo point of view, this research developed a perspectival ethnography, i.e. an ethnographical method onto-epistemologically grounded in Amerindian perspectivism to engage Northwestern European skilled relations with animals and the environment. Working with Shetlandic trawler fishers we experience the complex and profound empathies with fish embodied in their notion of “fishiness” as well as their interpenetration with the ocean “salt in the blood”. Thereby we challenge anthropological assumptions about North Western European ontologies, and perhaps may develop insights to fare through the perilous times facing the ocean through the re-enchantment of North Sea fishers´ love for fish and the sea. 

César Enrique Giraldo Herrera is a biologist and PhD in social anthropology. He is a freelance researcher and author. He has been a Senior Scientist with the Development and Knowledge Sociology Working Group at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT). Previously, he was a stipendiary Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, affiliated with the Institute for Science Innovation and Society (InSIS), School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME), University of Oxford. Earlier he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iceland. His work explores how humans and other beings relate with and through their environments, bodies, microbes, technology, music and dreams. He is the author of Microbes and other Shamanic Beings (Palgrave, 2008) and Ecos en el arrullo del mar: Las artes de la marinería en el Pacífico colombiano y sy mimesis en la música y el baile (Uniandes, 2009).