Fishing in Peru? Take a long line, but no dynamite

PARACAS, Peru (Reuters Life!) - Julio Boada has not set foot on his favorite fishing beach since an earthquake caused rockslides that shut access to the famous cove of La Catedral in Peru’s national reserve of Paracas last year.

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But, determined as ever to eke out a living, he still pulls fish from the chilly Pacific Ocean, helped by an extra-long line that stretches 650 feet.

To cast, Boada perches himself on top of the sandstone cliffs hundreds of feet above the choppy blue sea, hoping the Chita and Tramboyo fish will nibble on the conch bait attached to his hook.

“You can’t stand too close to the edge, or else the wind will blow you off. People have died,” he said.

The cove at La Catedral, or The Cathedral, was named for a soaring rock arch carved from the cliffs over hundreds of years by pounding surf. It was a popular tourist attraction until it collapsed in an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Peru a year ago -- forever changing the lives of people along the coast in ways both profound and mundane.

“Before the earthquake, we fished down there, but you can’t get there anymore. So now we fish from up here,” Boada, 52, said.

To get to other rocky beaches nearby, he still uses the age-old method practiced by other fisherman who work along the cliffs. It involves tying a rope to a wooden stake and then inching down the cliff walls, scrambling on precarious routes with sketchy footholds. Being fearless also helps.

At the end of a good day, which nets Boada about $10 in fish, he heads home by hopping a wide crevasse that opened in the cliff during the earthquake.

He blames bad days on overfishing by commercial boats and lazy catchers who throw sticks of dynamite into the water and then scoop out stunned fish.

Dynamite is cheap and plentiful in Peru, where copper, zinc and silver mines dot the landscape.

“It’s illegal to use dynamite, but people do it because you can catch 100 to 200 kilos of fish easily,” he said. “The police arrest people, but they always let them go.”

Editing by Dana Ford and Philip Barbara