Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo

Arquivo digital que documenta as campanhas bacalhoeiras desde o início do século XX

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Heritage of June: Memories of seals on board

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Seals have a voracious appetite for cod, and at various times they have crossed paths with the larger fishing vessels that plowed the waves in search of their faithful friend. Many fishermen remember seeing seals in the waters off the Grand Banks and Greenland. Small seals were often left to drift on islands of ice while their mother went to feed. Even adult seals use 'icebergs' as resting places and refuges to avoid predators. In other cases, seals have been spotted trying to hunt cod.


Mr. João Cavaz, a former machinist, remembers on one of his first trips, when he was still longlining, they had a seal on board.

The seal was caught in the troll line and got tangled, the animal got stuck there, then the fisherman put the seal in the boat and brought it on board. It was still alive when it came aboard. It was a seal that maybe because of its size, very small, it must have been a little older than a baby. It wasn't a meter long, but it was about a meter long. Later on board, the captain had her put in a cell where the fish were washed. And there she was. They gave her fish that was what she wanted and there was always fresh fish every day. And the animal was there, it was fun for all the guys.

There were often domestic animals on board, but wild animals were always something different in life on board, as Mr. João recalls. They let themselves be scratched and petted. It had been with us for a while and the whole crew got fond of the animal because being inside a ship on the high seas and seeing something different is always pleasant.

This was not the only case of a seal being a pet on board. Years later, on a trawler ship, they had a seal that ended up making the crew's return trip to Portugal. The ship's captain reported it ashore, and upon arrival, the seal was given to the Lisbon Zoo.

João Nunes Cavaz, born in Ílhavo, was a machinist and worked for more than twenty years in cod fishing vessels.

Photo courtesy of Francisco Vida