Hunting for squid in the South Atlantic

Words and images by Tomek Zawadowski

Life of a fisherman is not anywhere close to being easy. As a Scientific Fisheries Observer working for the Falkland Islands Government, I frequent commercial fishing vessels that choose to arrive and fish within Falklands Fishing Zones. These waters are well renowned for their robust biodiversity of marine resources and attract companies and their fishing fleets from all over the world. A part of my job is to undertake observation periods of up to several weeks on such vessels. During that period, I mainly carry out the biological sampling of both commercial and non-commercial species that are being caught. However, I also look into the vessel’s compliance with licencing conditions, international conventions such as MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and the safety culture of a given vessel.

The pictures presented here are shots that I have taken during 2 months spent blending into life and work on Korean and Taiwanese jigging vessels. These ships target the Argentine shortfin squid (Illex argentinus), a migratory species of cephalopods choosing Falklands waters for their feeding grounds between late February and July.

Annually, more than 100 vessels of Asian origin come to the Falklands to hunt for squid under the cover of night. They are powered with thousands of kilowatts of light bulb power and kilometres of fishing lines armed with thousands of jigs (hooks with fluorescent bait). With very intensive fishing during the night and daytime being spent on repairs and gear maintenance, the lack of sleep is unavoidable. Thus, fishermen take every single opportunity for a quick snooze to catch up with their disturbed sleeping pattern and to gain some priceless energy.

This rather harsh working environment takes its toll and almost every year there are reports of fishermen gone missing probably due to accidentally falling down from the jigging arms and drowning in the cold South Atlantic Ocean waters. Rumour has it that some of them, fed up with hard life on board, take a leap of faith and jump overboard whenever they see a bit of land…

With my photographs, I want to show the day to day struggle of the fishermen fishing for squid and overall impressions from being aboard of these vessels.

About the Author & Photographer

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My name is Tomek Zawadowski and I’m currently holding a post of a Scientific Fisheries Observer with the Falkland Islands Government. Apart from my passion for nature and marine biology I am also an avid photographer. “Hunting for squid” is a photography project that I’ve came up with and worked on during sea going observation trips on Taiwanese and Korean fishing ships in the South Atlantic. For more pictures please visit my social media, especially WordPress where you can find a collection of photos in different categories (not only sea related). I have also just recently started using Instagram. Here’s my FB profile as well. If you’d like to drop me a line here’s my email: canistom AT gmail.com


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