By Saveria Fiore, photo by Vito Fusco
Simone Esposito, 38 years old, is standing next to his boat in the first hours of the morning wearing his signature wool beanie and simple clothes. Simone, born and raised in Positano, comes from a very fashion-oriented family: his father, called Pepito around here, created their well-known brand and has always been appreciated for his kind heart. Simone, though, didn’t want to continue with the family tradition because the pull he felt coming from the sea was too strong for him to dismiss. “That world never suited me,” tells us. But still, it was his father who introduced him to fishing when he was pretty young. At sixteen years old, Simone was already sure that he wanted to turn this passion into a real job, and that’s what he did. He has never stopped since then, and it shows in the skillful way he picks up the edges of the net and then cuts them off. “People here call me Pepito as they did with my father. He was a great man, I try to be like him, but I don’t think I’ll be able to,” says, showing admiration and regret.
Fishing throughout the year
Since the maritime environment is always changing, fishermen frequently need new techniques to keep up. “Yes, there are indeed different types of fishing available, but I believe that it is up to us to find clever ways to face new circumstances. Especially now that the sea isn’t as abundant in fish as it used to be, mostly because of pollution,” tells us Simone sounding a bit nostalgic. The recent lockdown due to the coronavirus situation gave a new beginning to these waters. “We must admit that this pandemic had a positive effect on the maritime environment. We could even enjoy the sight of dolphins!”.
Following the seasonal flow
The fishing business is mostly seasonal, and the most productive seasons are spring and summer. “During spring, we go out there with specific nets to catch cod, cuttlefish, and shrimps. While, as soon as we get closer to summer, we focus more on surface fishing using a drift net that in our dialect is called scurmara. We go out two-three miles to fish for bonito, mackerel, and alliterate, which means more profitable fishing. Towards the end of summer, it’s time for common dolphinfish (also known as mahi-mahi), and we use palm branches known as cannizzi to catch it. This kind of foliage creates shady areas that are perfect to attract those fishes.”
The daily adventure
It is an unpredictable, full of surprises line of work. Since fishing is affected by weather conditions, moon phases, and currents, a fisherman’s daily life is always changing. There isn’t a day that is the same as the one before. “When we go out there in the morning, we have no idea if the day is going to be productive, long or short. But maybe, that’s the beauty of it”. Regarding this topic, Simone shares the fond memory of the unforgettable day when he caught a swordfish weighing a quintal and a half when he was younger.
The sea in the wintertime
Simone doesn’t even let the bad weather faze him. “Another big passion of mine is nature, so when the weather isn’t good, I fix my nets, or I look after my goats in the mountains.” He also tells us some fishing secrets while pointing out, proudly but shyly, that everything that he built up, he did by himself. “I taught myself everything I know about this job; I learned the various techniques, I observed, tried and sometimes even failed. But I have to thank a man who helped me a lot when I was sixteen years old, and that’s Gennaro Consiglio, called Popotola. He is a 94 years old man from Amalfi who takes his boat out in the sea, even today. I don’t know what I would give to reach his age with the same vitality”.
The secret to happiness
Those who make a living from fishing know the sacrifices required in this field, a type of commitment that brings satisfaction but struggles as well. “You need to let the passion guide you because you will face lots of difficulties. I’d like to tell young people to go out there, ride a boat and see if they feel like the sea is calling for them. That way, they’ll know that it is their right path to follow. It needs to happen naturally.” Simone tells us, letting us know that the oldest of his three children is contemplating following his footsteps. The bond that Simone shares with the sea is almost visceral, and that’s probably why, even if he has the patent for fishing tourism, he practically never did it. “I abandoned the idea pretty quickly. I couldn’t feel the respect or passion. I must confess that what I prefer is being alone on the boat, just the sea and I”. Simone’s love for the sea is deep and similar to the one he describes, with eyes full of emotions, when talking about his family. His words and truth make Simone a little “isle of resistance,” as the historian Gianni Bosio would say. “People believe that you create your happiness with money, but to me, to be happy is to have dreams and look at the sea.”