Condoms used to catch expensive fish in Cuba
ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2016 01:25 AM EST | UPDATED:
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2016 09:52 AM EST
HAVANA — Juan Luis Rosello sat for three hours on the Malecon as the
wind blew in from the Florida Straits, pushing the waves hard against
the seawall of Havana’s coastal boulevard.
As darkness settled and the wind switched direction, Rosello pulled four
condoms from a satchel and began to blow them up. When the
contraceptives were the size of balloons, the 47-year-old cafeteria
worker tied them together by their ends, attached them to the end of a
baited fishing line and set them floating on the tide until they reached
the end of his 750-foot line.
After six decades under U.S. embargo and Soviet-inspired central
planning, Cubans have become masters at finding ingenious solutions with
extremely limited resources. Few are as creative as what Havana’s
fishermen call “balloon fishing,” a technique employing a couple of
cents worth of government-subsidized condoms to pull fish worth an
average month’s salary from the ocean.
On any given night in Havana, dozens of men can be found “balloon
fishing” along the Havana seawall, using their homemade floats to carry
their lines as far as 900 feet into the coastal waters, where they also
serve to keep the bait high in the water and to increase the line’s
resistance against the pull of a bonito or red snapper.
“No one can cast the line that far by hand,” said Ivan Muno, 56, who was
fishing alongside Rosello.
For four more hours, he sat silently as the dark sea pounded the rocks
below the seawall, algae flashing green in the waves beneath an enormous
creamy moon, the sounds of the city muffled by the wind and water. By
midnight, he was heading home without a catch, but planning to return soon.
“This is the most effective way to fish,” Rosello said. “Someone got
this great idea and I can be here all night with the balloons out.”
Cuba has been renowned for its fishing at least since the days of Ernest
Hemingway, and foreigners by the thousands come each year to fish in
waters largely protected by Cuba’s lack of development.
Much of Cuba’s coastline remains free of the large-scale building that
has damaged ecosystems in the rest of the Caribbean. The island’s
industrial fishing fleet was devastated by the fall of the Soviet Union.
For Cubans, taking advantage of one of their greatest resources remains
a challenge. For all but the wealthiest, even the smallest private boats
and the fuel for them are too expensive. Many Cubans have taken to
riding out on inner tubes or blocks of industrial foam to catch larger
fish, but the unsafe technique known as “cork fishing” has become the
target of frequent coast guard crackdowns with steep fines.
“Balloon fishing” is cheaper, less risky and increasingly popular.
“There’s no point in getting a 3,000-peso ($120) fine and your gear
confiscated,” said Leandro Casas, a self-employed construction worker
fishing along the Malecon.
It’s not clear exactly when the practice was adopted, but according to
local fishermen’s lore, the inventor of the balloon technique in Cuba
saw a video of South Africans fishing using kites and got the idea for
using inflated condoms.
The highly subsidized condoms cost less than a cent apiece. Ordinary
party balloons sell for many times that price.
It’s illegal to sell fish without a license in Cuba, and the balloon
fisherman all said they are simply trying to feed their families.
Privately, though, many acknowledged that it would be crazy to do
anything but sell a 30-pound fish that is worth a dollar a pound in a
country with an average monthly state salary of about $25. While most
Cubans can’t afford to buy fish, Cuba’s private restaurants, its growing
upper middle class and the thousands of foreigners who live in the
capital all are avid buyers.
Alex Romero, the 42-year-president of the state-backed Old Havana
Federation of Fishermen, said balloon fisherman are as skilled as any
angler and are getting more practiced as their technique gains in
“It’s efficient and everyone uses it,” he said. “It’s the ingenuity that
Cubans always show in resolving problems without spending a lot of money.”
Source: Condoms used to catch expensive fish in Cuba | Weird | News |
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