THE world over, tourist destinations create tourist attractions for visitors. It is a treat to catch something real. That everyday event that is in one sense mundane, yet on the other, the very essence of what we visitors look for in our guided coach trips. In Benidorm you have such a chance. Fifty years ago, the place now synonymous with New York skylines and mass tourism was a sleepy fishing village.
Now only one fisherman remains.
In numbers, each long forgotten compatriot of the solitary survivor now replaced in monument fashion by his own soaring tower block.
Jose Miguel Martinez Fuster is Benidorm’s last professional fisherman. Each weekday at about 5 a.m., weather permitting, he sets off to work in his small boat from Benidorm’s tiny marina. His office is the Mediterranean. He is his own boss.
Jose comes from a long line of fisherman and started with his father when he was only sixteen. When his father retired Jose inherited the family boat, but then bought his own, naming it “Cayetano and Fransisco II” in tribute to the first vessel he sailed in some twenty years ago.
In the old days around fourteen or so fishing vessels would embark in fleet fashion every day to bring back their catch which was sold throughout the area. Now there is only one.
Jose recognizes that the work of a fisherman is not easy “and less when one is alone.” His work does not provide sufficient income to support employees.
In the past, moorings at the end of the dock were reserved for the fishing boats, but now the marina is dominated by leisure and tourist craft.
Jose never strays more than three miles off the coast, as his boat is only small. On returning to port in the afternoons he then sells his catch to Altea fish market. Where it is auctioned off to direct buyers and restaurants. Next time you order tuna in the area just think, you might be eating fish caught that very day by the lone fisherman from Benidorm.
Indeed Jose’s return to port each day, and the accompanying unloading of his fish boxes, removal of hooks and cleaning of nets has become something of a spectacle, attracting Spanish and foreigners alike.
Although this precious family tradition has continued with Jose, the future of the fishermen in Benidorm is more uncertain than ever. When asked if he would like his son Marc, who is now seven, to continue the family profession, the fisherman said quite philosophically that it is the child who has to decide.