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Field Notes
Fen Montaigne
Photograph by Rebecca Hale
Fen Montaigne
Interview by Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa

What was your best experience during this assignment?

Swimming with tuna in the Mediterranean was the highlight of this assignment. They were giant bluefin, and it was magnificent to behold their power and beauty. These tuna had been netted by fishermen off the coasts of Spain, Turkey, and Tunisia, and I was swimming with the bluefin within the boundaries of huge offshore seine nets. For these particular tuna, this was the last of their long migration. So this was a bitterswet pleasure, to say the least.

What was your worst experience during this assignment?

I took a two-day trip with a Spanish tuna fisherman on his small boat in rough Mediterranean waters. But I spent the first 16 hours throwing up, rising occasionally from a bunk in the cramped crew quarters below deck to watch the fisherman and his crew haul in their longlines. As they worked, I took notes and dry-heaved over the side of the boat.

What was the oddest experience you encountered during this assignment?

For four days in July, I was killing time on the Spanish island of Ibiza, waiting to join a purse-seine fishing fleet. Ibiza in July sounds ideal, but the port town of Sant Antoni de Portmany was overrun with thousands of tourists, most of them young British "lager louts," whose main objective seemed to be a permanent state of inebriation. Walking to the docks at sunrise to check if the purse-seine boat had arrived, I surveyed a scene that might have been reminiscent of the fall of the Roman Empire, as drunken Englishmen stumbled down the city's waterfront promenade, throwing up on its sidewalks.