HAVANA TIMES — The beauty and intelligence of three animal species put an end to all my killing. I would kill soles, octopi and scorpion fish regularly, until I put aside my hunger and began to enjoy conserving these beautiful specimens of Cuba’s marine fauna.
My father taught me to swim and fish as a kid. For a long time, I didn’t have to buy the fish I ate. I learned to hunt for everything I needed: sometimes using my hands and sometimes a harpoon my dad had given me as gift.
As my short-range vision began to wane, my long-range vision began to see things differently. Whenever I shot at a scorpion fish, it would be impaled by the harpoon and writhe in agony for a long time. When it turned towards me, it would reveal the ventral part of its body, where the secret beauty of this species lies.
Hiding from the predators are the bright yellow, red and black tattletales that have nothing to envy of the most beautiful and delicate butterflies.
A documentary about the intelligence of octopi also contributed to my change in behavior with respect of these cephalopods. The documentary shows how the animal efficaciously employs one of its tentacles to uncork a bottle where a small crab was trapped, to get at the animal that it could see through the glass.
After being harpooned, octopods also remain alive for a long time, and, to finish them off, one must place a cap-shaped structure over their brains and other vulnerable organs and twist. Many vital signs can still be observed for hours after doing this.
Soles are another species that were hugely important to me. They are easy to kill because they are overly confident that the mimetic mechanisms they use to survive offer a perfect disguise. What truly impressed me about them is their mating ritual. One morning, I went scuba diving and I saw a male sole mating with a female that wouldn’t give in.
These fish can be anything from white, through grey to pink, and they can imitate the texture of sand, including the green tonalities of algae. The courting sole had a greenish grey back with black, blue-rimmed dots. The color would change as the animal became excited and it would vibrate to get the female’s attention. I will never forget this beautiful experience.
I’ve never liked sole meat, but my mother and step-father would benefit from my catches. Today, soles are like brothers to me. We can swim together, rubbing up against the rocky sea bottom. The same is true of octopi and scorpion fish: today, we are like friends.