Dynamite Fishing and Other Stories My Father Used to Tell Me

By Christopher Xenepoulos Janus

My father was a born storyteller. The Xenepoulos family at the time lived on the island of Chios. My father told me there is a stone structure seat on the island near the shore and this is where Homer used to sit and tell his wonderful stories. My father told me he himself used to sit on this stone seat and make up his stories. Right after the war I had occasion to visit Chios and I made a point to find Homer's famous seat, and I recalled some of the stories my father told me.

Some of the best stories my father told me - and this was when our family left Greece and settled in Montgomery, W.Va., were about fishing. Unfortunately, my father used to fish by dynamite. But he gave up dynamiting when the following happened:

They went fishing on a Sunday and they came across a large school of fish. They got plenty of fish, but unfortunately a dolphin was in the area and was killed. Her baby dolphin was in another area. The baby dolphin came up to my father's boat and he gave her a fish and was unable to pet the dolphin. But my father said the dolphin was very confused, and he said, "If dolphins cry then this little dolphin was definitely crying." This was the last time my father used dynamite.

This, of course, in no way affected dynamite fishing in Greece, especially in Crete, where the dynamite fishing was the strongest.

The southern coast of Crete is dotted with small, picturesque fishing villages drenched in
the warm rays of the sun and the abundant

My father said the baby dolphin was very
confused, and ge said, "If dolphins cry
then this little dolphin was definately
crying." This was the last time my
father used dynamite.

waters of the Libyan Sea. The lifestyle of the locals is simple and unassuming. However, there are times when a distant thunder washes to the shore by impending grief.

This thunder is identified by the locals as fishing by dynamite, an illegal activity which has been going on for a number of years on Crete. As a result, one may no longer be surprised by the disturbing sight of a mutilated man in the little villages of southern Crete, even if that person is young and of the post-war generation.

This illegal activity is governed by the law of silence. The locals are unwilling to disclose any information about the specific individuals who are involved in this type of activity. However, it is common knowledge that the missing limbs of a particular fisherman were blown away by dynamite.

Fishing by dynamite seems to be necessitated by a certain passion for bombs, a contrivance which combines an ill-conceived mode of entertainment and fast profit. In the past, fishing by dynamite was the last resort for a poor fisherman for whom a fishing boat was beyond financial reach. The locals are unwilling to disclose any information. A defective stick, a shorter fuse and lack of experience were usually responsible for the mutilation, even the death, of these poor people. Today, this activity has acquired the status of a sport for those who look forward to the fast flow of adrenaline.

In 1970, however, statute 420 decreed that fishing activities responsible for the mutilation and death of people are illegal. This statute was amended and finalized in 1987 with the passing of law 1740. Today fishing by dynamite is strongly criticized by professional fishermen and is deplored by nature lovers and conservationists. As is always the case in Greece, safety measures are taken a little late, or when the situation is nonreversible. The fishermen who complain of small or no catch at all have urged port authorities to start a man-hunt against the butchers of the sea.

I could quote many additional.stories and statistics about dynamite fishing but what I remember the most, and most frequently, is my father's story of the baby dolphin whose mother was killed in the dynamite testing and who came to my father's boat feeling lost and confused. And, as my father said, if dolphins cry, this little dolphin was definitely crying.

Christopher Xenopoulos Janus is the founder and publisher of Greek Heritage, The American Quarterly of Greek Culture. He has written many articles and books, including "The World of Christopher Xenopoulos Janus" (2008).

(Posting date 16 May 2008)

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