Sunday, August 07, 2005

Great (Sea)Wall of China

I took a stroll through Stanley Park yesterday and contemplated the many Chinese determinedly fishing along the seawall. I had a rather cliched initial response: I wouldn't eat fish from these waters. Then it occured to me: why do I assume that they're catching fish because they're going to eat them? How many of these fish are ending up in supermarkets or Asian restaurants?

After debating the ettiquite of it for awhile, walking along while my curiosity percolated, I approached one man, standing with a fishing rod along my route. He was with someone who I took to be his son, in his 30's. I asked the older man, "Excuse me, I'm curious, but what do you do with the fish?"

He said, "Just bored. Nothing to do!" in a smiling, friendly way, and what it communicated to me was a complete unwillingness to answer the question. I asked another: what do you catch? I fish sometimes myself.

He smiled and said again, "Just bored, nothing to do!" His son, perhaps deciding to humour me, but not looking eager to engage me in discussion, opened a bucket, where two perch-like fish were sitting, one still breathing, at the bottom. The son was operating on a "humour the idiot and he'll go away faster" premise, from his gestures.

I become convinced that they're making money on this, selling the fish, and that I probably have eaten fish that came from these waters. I contemplated this for awhile, and about the odd invisibility, the present-but-separate status, of Chinese in Vancouver. I also managed to make eye contact with a seal, before it ducked under the water. The seals and Chinese compete for the fish (I've seen Chinese fishermen throw things at seals, to scare them away). For awhile, I wondered who I'd root for more, in a seal-vs.-Chinese fisherman scenario.

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