PENÍNSULA VALDÉS.— In uninhabited beaches surrounded by salty land and torn by dryness and millennia of absence of rain, hides a beach of unremarkable beauty where live 15 inhabitants who practice fishing and conch fishing. Golfo San José, on the Valdés Peninsula on the north side of the Amgino Isthmus, in Chubut, A pioneer family had an idea: invite tourists to participate in the activity on board, return to shore with the catch, cook it and eat it in front of the calm sea. “It’s unique”, sums up Antonella Díaz’s experience.
“Playa Larralde is a paradise,” confesses Díaz, referring to the lonely fishing village where the activity takes place. Little known, it lies opposite the gentle Golfo San José, where the sea appears as a vast pool hidden in its depths a wealth of fish and shellfish Who define the aroma and culture of this arid land. “It’s a tourism sustainability tool,” says Diaz. Our enterprise is a way of telling the story of family, but also of an entire community that lives by the sea.
His family has been practicing artisanal fishing for over 40 years.
“Diaz de Pesca”, that is the name of the experience. The activity starts early. “Although we don’t have a schedule, once at sea, it’s about enjoying and disconnecting,” says Alberto Alcantara, Díaz’s husband, a boat captain and born and raised in Puerto Pyramides, the Valdés peninsula’s only town , say only 15 kilometers away.
“We put down our phones and forgot about everything,” he insisted. Visitors are received in the best way: seafood salad from the sea and a gin and tonic meter. The next step is to take action. The lack of telephone or internet signal helps, the isolation is extreme and only then is there a direct connection to nature. The incessant wind purifies the scene until it carries it to the vastness, the giant liquid pampa of the Argentine Sea.
A minimum of four and a maximum of ten people enter the boat. “It’s very personal,” says Diaz. It is designed to showcase the lifestyle of the artisan fisherman”.
It works at low tide and the boat is moved to the place where fishermen and diver shellfishers do their activity. While tourists take part in this experience, they view a collection of seashells. “It’s the first artisanal dive fishing experience in the country,” says Díaz. Our story is born in the sea and we tell them,
How are conch fish caught by diving? “It’s hard work,” Alcantara estimates. For two or three hours the fishermen who are divers remain submerged to a depth of ten meters. They do this with a dip net (a mesh basket) tied to a rope and a hookah, a hose that supplies them with oxygen generated by an on-board compressor. By hand, and using a lot of intuition and judging the terrain with their eyes, in crystal clear water, they collect scallops, mussels, clams, mussels and razors until they fill the nets, a string on the rope. With the bridge over, they catch it and the captain of the boat brings an empty one to the surface, submerging it.
They can fill up to 30 dip nets per outlet. Each diver can be under water for one hour, a maximum of one and a half hours. To exit, a strict protocol must be followed: decompression, the elimination of nitrogen from the blood due to a pressure difference. “We have to go up slowly and stay underwater for at least 45 minutes without moving,” Alcantara says.
If this is not respected, bubbles form in the blood which can be fatal if they reach the brain. “In winter we wear very thick suits to withstand the low temperatures,” he says.
“We only take out what we need,” says Díaz. It is a low environmental impact activity, They also invite visitors to go fishing, but a maximum of six and you can only take one piece. The most valuable species are salmon and grouper. Each rod has only one hook. The fish are returned to the sea, and the females are never taken. The weight of the fish brought ashore should be more than 3.5 kg. “That’s how we show tourists the values of the artisanal fisherman,” Díaz says.
“We enjoy local gastronomy”, says Antonella. Back in Playa Larralde, at a table facing the sea, dishes are being prepared, behind the fishing village, the solitude and silence is absolute. The sea has the only power of sound that is allowed. Along with fresh seafood and fish, participants are invited to cook. Salmon Empanadas, Seafood Salad, Marinated Mussels and Mussels, Scallops au Gratin and a Paella. ,This is a local gastronomy, There are no trucks or frozen food, produce comes straight from the ocean to the table—something Antonella is proud of. This is the diet of the artisan fisherman”.
Diaz says: “I started diving when I was eight years old. At the time when the girls played with the dolls, their father Raúl and his brother Dario—pioneers who developed the shellfish activity that completed the “Diaz Fishing” team—took them to Playa Larralde. Thus he soon became familiar with the language of the tides, the winds and the sea.
“It was never easy for a woman, but times have changed,” she says. The sea is what tells us what we can do during the day.” A reflection of this experience, she managed to summarize the family history into an activity the whole family is involved in. “We are artisan fishermen, More than a job, it’s a way of life,” he says.
“The effect this beach creates is incredible, when tourists come, they leave their cell phones in the car and forget about their past lives,” Alcantara says. The peninsular reality and beautiful beaches are an instant escape from the routine and obligations of modern society. In Playa Larralde, a harsh, primitive and simple life is lived. The yellow boats, the tiny houses rested on the hope of a good catch and tamarind trees trembling in the wind.
It wasn’t always done this way, manually fishing. scallop From San Matias Bay, north of the Valdés Peninsula, was largely drained and ships began to venture further south into San Jose Bay, the destruction of industrial fishing was about to exhaust the resource, using dredge technology, It destroyed the entire seabed until 1974 when it was banned, the Provincial Marine Park was created to protect the species but also the way of life of artisanal fishermen. Their union was decisive for UNESCO declaring the Valdés Peninsula a World Heritage Site.
Larralde Beach has had human activity for thousands of years. Tehuelches inhabited the peninsulaAnd artisanal fishermen use the same techniques as them. The first appearance of the white man was in 1779, when the Spanish landed to build Fort San Jose. Women, children and men came to obey the royal order to build a city in this abandoned corner at the end of the world. He had a miserable life.
Dry and windy climate in summer, extreme cold in winter, absence of fresh water made life there impossible. To which was added the constant threat of Tehuelche raids. Until August 1810, even after the May Revolution, the Spanish remained there, cut off from the world. until the Prima Junta ordered his transfer to Carmen de Patagones in Buenos Aires Province. Of the 200 residents of Fuerte San José, only two men survived: they were able to survive the raid and, in a painful journey on foot, they reached the city of Buenos Aires. It was not until 1882 that the peninsula was re-inhabited, to begin the extraction of salt from inside the salt pan.
“We need to reconnect with nature and with the values of artisanal fishermen in an extreme way,” Díaz says. The Marine family, which many Argentines do not know, is shown here in its privacy. “We propose something simple: Unplug,” says the only woman in a family of shellfish collectors. The equipment is simple too: fresh food, a table facing the ocean and stories about a hidden beach.