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How a fisherman became a tour operator: New beginning without networks


A life on land can not imagine Victor Vasquez. Nevertheless, the Ecuadorian fisherman gave up his job and today takes tourists instead of fish on board. For the sake of the sea.

The love of the holiday country goes through the stomach. In the series Travel Foods we tell stories from kitchens all over the world - at the end of the text you will always find a recipe.

Victor Vasquez's kitchen wavers. Two times two and a half meters measure his kingdom, he only needs to whirl around once from the two hot plates and the sink left to the right side of the galley, where a table and the hanging cabinet with the spices are housed. He lands there particularly quickly when a wave from outside presses against the ship in whose belly he is.

Like now. But Vasquez, a 37-year-old with thick black hair, can not be disturbed. He routinely cuts an onion into wafer-thin slices, while the ground dances beneath his bare feet on the waves of the Pacific. "I can not imagine life without the sea," he says, wiping his knife.

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Boat trip in front of Galápagos: For the love of the sea

Vasquez lives on Santa Cruz, the second largest and most populous of the Galapagos Islands. Most people who live in the archipelago on the equator, about 1000 kilometers west of Ecuador, have a job that is somehow connected to the sea or nature. Vasquez started fishing at sea when he was 17 years old. But in the course of time the fish became less and the tourists more and more.

Because the Galápagos are famous for their untouched nature and unique wildlife. 97 percent of the land area and 99 percent of the marine areas around the islands are strictly protected. In addition to the famous giant tortoises and Darwin finches, it is mainly the sea creatures that attract visitors from all over the world: more than 500 species of fish, including 50 species of sharks and rays, sea lions, marine iguanas and sea birds such as Galápagos penguins.

A paradise to protect, even from large fishing fleets. Fishing for local use, Vasquez feels, was just part of life on an island. "But not for export on a large scale, not just for the money," he says, climbing the three steps that lead from the kitchen to the deck.

When an environmental initiative came to the island's fishermen and offered them financial support to switch from fishing to sustainable tourism, Vasquez did not have to think twice. What he depended on was not fishing itself, but life on board.

Since then, he no longer loads his boat with fish, but with tourists. Together with a colleague, he offers day trips. He drives his guests along the coast, takes them to snorkeling spots, cooks them - and shows them how to fish. When Vasquez drops off in Puerto Ayora, the main town of Santa Cruz, tiny bays and craggy rocks are the destinations: Bahia La Fe, Bahia Pingüino and Roca Don.

Fishing - only without nets and only by hand

Ten vacationers wets out of wetsuits on deck. Vasquez walks around with a big box and collects snorkel masks. "Who wants to catch his lunch?" He asks. While four Scandinavian tourists prefer to warm up in the sun, Christopher, an American in his 40's, is immediately there. "I've been looking forward to it all day," he says, taking a fishing rod from Vasquez.

Now patience is required - and careful. Because the conditions for fish near the coast are very strict. Nets or technical aids such as radar are taboo, fishing is exclusively by hand and for personal consumption. That was the name of the deal Vasquez got into.

He squints in the sun and gives a Spaniard a fishing rod. On the port side volcanic rocks rise from the sea, man-sized cacti stand out against the sky blue. Red cliff crabs flit over black rocks. Vasquez rests on the railing and points over to an islet. "Only we, the former fishermen, can dock here," he says. Anyone who has to compete with large excursion boats needs exclusivity - and a good connection to the holidaymakers.

Not everybody has it. Some fishermen even ended the tourism program because they were not born for small talk. Vasquez laughs. Once he had a vegan on board, who was not clear that fishing on the boat. In the group were also three passionate anglers who did not want to miss the pleasure. "It took a lot of diplomatic skills," says Vasquez.

He casts a glance at the bait as the American cries out. Missing Bite. The men quickly catch up with the leash, a spiked mackerel fidgets on the surface of the water. But before the angler can pull the animal on board, a Galapagoshai jumps out of the water, grabs the mackerel and hangs on the fishing rod.

Vasquez curses quietly. That should not have happened. Like dozens of other fish species, the shark is on the prohibition list. If someone bites you accidentally, he must be released and thrown back into the water. But this animal is tough. For a while fishermen and fish fight each other, then the pressure eases. The shark has bitten the leash.

Success with tuna and tourists

The Spaniard is lucky for that. "Albacore," shouts Vasquez, a white tuna. "The snack is assured." While the men pose in front of the fellow travelers cell phones and then prepare themselves for another snorkel, Vasquez walks back into his small kitchen to prepare the food.

When he started his boat trip, he only had one old fishing boat. The starting funding, which each fisherman received, was sufficient for a few timbered benches on board, for the snorkeling equipment and lifejackets. But Vasquez quickly earned more than before. He proudly knocks on the ship's side. The "Mileny", his new boat, has a covered cabin and a lookout on the roof.

Mileny, like the boat, is also called Vasquez's daughter. Maybe it was a reason to hang up fishing. "I was at sea five days a week, up to 14 hours a day," he says. "The work was physically tough." Now he only leaves three times a week - and earns double.

On the other days he tills a piece of land with his wife and reaps the ingredients he needs for his food on board: coconuts, limes, onions and other vegetables. For tourists, for example, there is ceviche, a dish for which freshly caught raw fish or seafood is marinated in lime juice.

He sprinkles some more salt on the lunch. Below him, the ground sways, outside the waves rippling. Just as it has to be for Vasquez.

Alexandra Frank works as a freelance writer for SPIEGEL ONLINE. This trip was supported by Galapagos Pro.

Recipe for Ceviche (for two persons):

Ingredients: 250 g whole fresh fish fillet (for example of cod, pike perch, wolf or golden bass), 2 limes, 150 to 200 g firm tomatoes, 1 red onion, 2 stalks of fresh coriander, 0.5 to 1 green chilli pepper (depending on the heat ), 1 tsp olive oil and white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, a pinch of sugar

iStockphoto / Getty Images

Fish dish ceviche (icon)

Preparation: Wash all ingredients, burb the fish and divide into cubes of about one centimeter. Squeeze out the limes and marinate the fish in a shallow bowl in lime juice for at least 20 minutes. Likely longer, but then in the fridge.

Peel and dice the tomatoes, cut the onions into thin strips and pluck leaves from the coriander. Halve and corer the chili pepper (it gets sharper if you leave the seeds). Cut the pod into thin rings. If you like, you can add other ingredients, such as finely chopped celery, palm-heart slice, avocado or mango pieces.

Mix the fish with the ingredients, add vinegar and oil, season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar and stir. Let everything rest at room temperature for a quarter of an hour. Ecuadorians eat as a side dish like banana chips (Chifles), bread but it does too.

Source: spiegel

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