Island Heritage - Flying Fish

Fish! Fish!... Get yuh Flying Fish!... Fish! Fish! This common cry is often heard emanating from fish markets around the island, after their fishing vessels return to port laden with the delicacy.


Flying Fish is a major part of Barbadian culture and history and at one time it was the dominating force in the islands fishing industry. In fact, when the fish was in greater abundance in the islands waters, Barbados was nicknamed "the land of the flying fish".


So heavy was the products influence that today the historic importance of this flying fish is still reflected in modern culture; it image can be found on the silver dollar, on all paper currency, on the Barbados passport, in our logos (i.e. the Barbados tourism authority, in museums and artwork and it remains the tastiest ingredient in the  national dish, Cou Cou & Flying Fish.


As, the name implies, a flying fish is known for its remarkable ability to "fly"! In ancient times it was believed that at night the fish would fly out of the sea and sleep on closest the shore, causing it to be labeled as “Exocoetidae” the scientific and latin name for flying fish translated literally as "sleeping outside".


While is easy to assume that these warm water, fish FLY, in actuality the fish glides through the air… The fish moves its tail up to 70 times per second to swim quickly towards the surface, then bursts into the air at top speeds of 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph). It then spreads its long, wing-like, pectoral fins, tilts them slightly upward for maximum lift, and “surfs on air” on the updrafts created by air and ocean currents.


Records indicate that flying fish can glide for as much as 400 m (1,300 ft), their 25cm bodies can be in flight for up to 45 seconds and they can propel themselves up to 6 meters (20ft) in the air and jump right into a boat. Notably, the sixty-four known species of the Flying fish usually “fly” to escape predators (dolphins, tuna, marlin, birds, squids and porpoises) and is also a popular commercial fish in Asia and other Caribbean islands such as Trinidad & Tobago.

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Cou Cou & Flying Fish - Recipe
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"Photo sourced from John Henderson at The Denver Post"