Fish are a mode of water through the gills, not airborne in the atmosphere like birds. These flounders look like neither, nor insects or mammals, more like works of art fabricated from plastic.
I wanted to ask the fisherman who killed them how he could see them, so well camouflaged against the murky bottom. He speaks no English and despite three visits to China over forty years, my Mandarin and Cantonese is abysmal. Perhaps, I never practiced with sincerity.
I point to my stomach, groan and frown – miming not good to eat. He smiles and nods. He is going to eat them. I suppose they will taste fine with seasoning or a sauce. He catches a small Yellowfin Bream, fiddles with injury then tosses it back.
Beyond the splash is a restless chasm, can’t see my face. The pontoon is used by ‘Thunder Jet Boats’, ‘Book your Extreme Adrenaline Rush ride now! This is a fantastic way to see the sights of the Sydney Harbour.’ You can hear the screams but never witness mutiny.
All day, women fished the harbour from bark nawis using twisted fibres from kurrajongs, cabbage trees or flax plants for their lines, and fashioning fish-hooks from Turban shell. Instead of using bait, they spat out chewed shellfish which we call burley. They were very skilful, would fish with a fire in the nawi and babies on board. Men fished from the shore with spears. Song was heard.
‘We like to think fish have no feelings. And yet the idea that they have both memory and a capacity for suffering is gaining ground among scientists.’[i]
[i] Carl Safina, ‘Are we wrong to assume fish can’t feel pain?’, The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018