Last week in Plomari a Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) of seven-and-a-half meters was brought into the harbour. The poor animal, a huge plankton sipper who could never harm a human except possibly with a fair blow of his tail, got entangled in nets just outside Vatera. He did not survive.
Yesterday I had a swim in the sea at Drotta (bordering Vatera). To be sure, I did not got far away from the beach and I kept an eye around me in case I saw a small black triangle rushing after me. I mean, the only thing I know of sharks is that they swim in the seas and I have no idea how to differentiate between a good or a bad shark. And although swimmers here never bump into sharks (just the odd fishermen far out at sea) – you never know, you just might run into the wrong guy.
I prefer swimming amid sardines that are far smaller and really have no bad intentions. But imagine if you were to find yourself in the midst of a school of sardines whose fate is to die and to wash ashore tonnes at a time, as happened last month in Chili? That sounds like a real horror scenario. That country already had a sardine prohibition because of overfishing, so bad luck there are now even less. Here at the other side of the globe there are still plenty of those little silver fish and with no hard feelings we allow them to end up on our plates.
There is not a lot that I miss from Holland, but one thing is salted herring. So I am crazy for the Greek variation of salted herring – sardèlles pastès – which are mainly eaten in the summer. In Holland it is a big event when the first salted herring of the season is brought ashore. Here in Greece this happens without any fuss; and as early as late spring, when the waiter mentions sardèlles pastès, this dish will be sold out by the time I leave the restaurant.
Another sea creature I am not keen in meeting during a swim is an octopus. It is not that I am afraid that an 8-legged monster will suddenly pop up and grab my legs (enormous squids as big as 3 meters have been spotted in the seas around Japan); but whilst I love to have one freshly caught on my plate, underwater its desire to embrace you with all his tentacles seems a bit creepy.
I read an article saying that cephalopods are multiplying more quickly than usually. Just a few years ago a study concluded that jelly fish populations were trying to take over the oceans, and now the squids and octopus have joined them.
Octopus can be very intelligent. They can predict the outcome of football matches, they know how to free themselves from where they are kept and who knows at what other smart things they excel. Up until now I never bumped into a shark while swimming, nor a sardine nor a squid, and only once accidentally into the invisible tentacles of a jelly fish. If you want to believe scientists, things will change quickly, because from the dark depths of the sea invisible dangers are lurking, just like those described in the eco-thriller The Swarm of Frank Schätzing.
Maybe its our eating habits that will provide a little remedy to the abundance that lies ahead. Believe it or not, jelly fish are as common as sardines on the menus in Asia. The Lesvorian coasts are not rich in these quivering creatures, but I am sure that in the high seas there are plenty. Jelly fish with mushrooms and cucumber? First manage to get such a gelatinous animal whole onto the beach.
You will find cephalopods aplenty on the Greek menu: fried or stuffed kalamari, octopus in red wine sauce or marinated in vinegar or grilled octopus legs. All restaurants may have one or more of these dishes on their menu.
The shark at Plomari was cut into pieces, colouring the harbour blood red. Probably it all ended up on a grill. Occasionally here on the island you might find shark on the menu, although it is one you do not have to run from a: a School shark or in Greek galeos (Galeorhinus galeus). And it is really tasty.
I will not imagine sharks ever joining squids, octopus and jelly fish in conquering the seas. But when the sardines do, I will hope that we may fish them with no limits and that I may feast – without shame – upon those delicious Greek salted herrings!