Pedro (25), Azores, Portugal
Interview conducted in Velas, São Jorge island, Azores, Portugal
The south side of the island of São Jorge seemed fairly well protected from the Atlantic with Pico to the south and Faial to the southwest. I might be an ideal place to hop in the ocean for a dive. Pretty fishes are abundant in these waters. Under the sea wrasses
and parrot fish play. There was a species of Anthias that looked exceptionally beautiful that was abundant in these waters. I’ve long be a lover of fish and the chance to see schools of these in their natural environment became a goal after seeing Les Gallagher’s stunning drawings of these fish. The São Jorge Dive and Sail center was open in the off season and the owner/operator Pedro was happy to provide advice on where to find these stunning fish.
What is your favorite part of living on São Jorge?
I grew up here but have always spent winters away. I do not think it is fair if I answer this question. My wife is a naval engineer so we moved our family here to open a business. In Lisbon I had no time for my son, here I can take him on walks. I think the quality of life here will be better here.
What is your least favorite part of living on São Jorge?
Some things are hard to find. If you want to go see a movie, you can not, there are not theaters.
Do you see the changes in the natural world where you live?
Yes, I have worked here since 2013. Each year there are less and less fish. I think it is due to the gill nets. They are indiscriminate and catch many types of fish. Mostly older people use them but they also teach their sons. It is not a sustainable way to fish.
The storms are also very different. A few weeks ago we had very high tides and the water came above the concrete. During hurricane Lorenzo water came over the walls and knocked containers into the port. Did you hear that on Flores the port was destroyed? In February there was a storm that came over the walls. Taking the sailboat out is not an option so we tied on a bunch of lines and hope for the best.
This summer was also very difficult for the business. We had to cancel many tours. The storms were bigger and less predictable.
Do you think these changes are from man’s activities?
Yes, I think man plays a role.
Can you give me an example of something you are doing to reduce your impact on the planet?
We are trying to make a living running a low impact business. We offer sailing tours which is a great way to see the island without using much gas. Scuba is a great way for people to see fish in their natural environment. It helps them appreciate the ocean. We also have these stainless steel water bottles for people to use instead of plastic.
Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
My dad used to run this business and I bought it from him. We don’t have mass tourism yet. São Jorge is still quiet, even in the summer but each year we get more tourists. People fly into São Miguel and then spread out from there. We want to keep São Jorge small and friendly.
The attitude of the people on the island of São Jorge is so much different than Faial. Prices are better, people are friendlier and the pace noticeably slower. Cars are not racing around and people smile readily. Pedro freely shared his knowledge of dive sites. When I asked the similar questions of São Miguel I was brushed off. Pedro stated that people in Horta had been thriving off the sailors there for years and had become addicted to the their money. There were clearly exceptions in Faial. I met many good people but the feel of he less populated island is more appealing to me. I look forward to the exploring this place and meeting more of the people of São Jorge.