It was a couple of years since I heard talk about the “Stilts of Carrasqueira”, a nice and typical place localized nearby the small town of Moitinha at the South of Lisbon.
Inside the mouth of the Sado river this village, mainly habited by fishermen, it still keeps its traditions in a way that seems to be in the ’50s yet. In somehow the Time has stopped here; all the technology and equipment used by the modern fishing boats such as sonar, automatic winch and fiberglass boats were not present, they are in any other place, but not here. The magic area, where a piece of old Portugal still endure, sees these artisanal wooden stilts on where take seat the fishermen’ boats and their fishing warehouses, used to store everything they need for the fishing trips.
The life of a fisherman is anything but easy. Only the experience gained through the years and previous generations allow these people to be aware of the fishes’ habits, environmental conditions and understanding the best place in the right season during the right tide to lay down the nets for a good catch. The majority of the times this particular “fishing time” implicates to lay the nets in the evening and come back to land in the night, only to have time for few hours of sleep before setting again the boats and be ready to leave the shore at sunrise.
A fisherman does not work in the night, there are a sort of shared thoughts among them, a common fear to be trapped in a net during the night work is too high, you could be dragged and drown only for a small mistake, which in those conditions of wariness and scarce visibility may not delay to comes.
Moreover, sometimes the efforts do not repay them as expected. Most of the catches sometimes, as happened this time in the shots I depict, do not fully repay the efforts made. All depends on the usability of the species of fish caught. If they will be sold for a good price on the local market, that will be enough to ensure money back for boat fuel, and hopefully, for the fisherman, otherwise one or the other will be stay dry.
Efforts do not guarantee gain.
The stilts harbor of Carrasqueira was built in 50’-60’ and it has the fame to be the only one in whole Europe in good condition to be used yet. It recalls tourists but despite that, this place is still untouched by the great companies who intend to build facilities for the exploitation of this habitat. The life is quiet and centered mostly on fishing.
The entire area suffers great tides change up to several meters, this requires fishermen to plan the leaving carefully and consider both the conditions at the leaving and at the return. In presence of low tide indeed, the boats lie right on the bottom of the river, dried by such conditions and making impossible plan any type of fishing trip. This, in addition to the problems above mentioned concerning the usability of the type of fish caught, create even more difficulties to ensure a certain profit afterward.
The docks of this wooden harbor point to the North, this means that during the sunset is easy to see a nice “golden light” creating a magic atmosphere. Well known place by local photographers, it is common to see them in the late hours of the afternoon set their gear to get the best light.
The entrance on the harbor is accompanied by a global view of the entire area and an abandoned boat aside generates a nostalgic feeling that makes this place so peculiar.
The docks do not look in good conditions, the whole place is generally quite neglected and it is common to see a hole between the wooden planks or hear them creaking under your feet when walking on them or when a strong gust of wind makes them swaying. The main longer wooden path branches in several secondary piers, twenty-two in total, each one having two or more boat in each side, and along the way it easy bumps into small warehouses and fishing tools or nets left nearby the boats by their owners.
Some pathway is completely not walkable, the only things that stand out are the main foundations of the docks, composed solely by vertical wooden sticks bonded together in a pair, at distance of 1-2 meters between each other, on which the pier would be erected.
An elongated unsteady pier that lasted for last 60 years though and preserved great part the fishing traditions.
Most of the species include freshwater fishes or very euryhaline ones that are capable to tolerate great salinity variations up to almost zero. Most of these freshwater species have scarce value on the market except in local scale, for this reason it is difficult to export such products in the nearby areas since the major strength of Portugal is the Sea fishing market
I arrived there after a great fishing catch; fishermen were cleaning their nets ashore unraveling the fish and repair any holes. Quintals of fishes of almost the same species filled entirely 5-6 cases. But where all these fish would have ended up? The answer was spine-chilling, “we will throw it back to the water to feed other fishes,” a fisherman said. Dead fishes, the result of all the efforts with a good dose of luck was not enough, all those fishes could not find a place on the market, so the only option was saving it for themselves and throw the rest away because no buyers will take it.
Global market increases as well as the trades, but it is a very selective market, only a few resources are really valuable and worth to be sold, a better education since young age may prevent lots of waste like this, be used to have what you can and not what you like.
The world business kills the little men as well as the rational way or reasoning. The influence from the surrounding markets changes the way how these fishermen do their job. They do not sell anymore this fish in nearby towns like once.
This generates a sluggish economy that led to both huge wastes from the efforts for searching the right resources to sell and a pauperization of the local habitats from the indigenous species.