Quebecer Valentine Thomas was leading a successful career in finance in London before she took the plunge and became a full-time spearfisherwoman. (Find out what she packs in her carry-on, here.) Today, she leads the charge for sustainable fishing primarily via her Instagram account (@valentinethomas) and travels the seven seas to document her methods, raise awareness and find her next meal. Valentine Thomas’ book À contre-courant is available in bookstores and online. An English-language edition is on the way.
Deepest dive: 50 metres
Favourite fish: Hogfish and lion fish
Biggest catch: A 450-pound marlin. "I was able to share the meat with the entire village we were staying in, near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico."
Preferred cooking method: In a skillet or whole, over a campfire
enRoute When did you decide to quit your job in finance in London and start spearfishing full-time?
Valentine Thomas In 2016, I was in South Africa, where a French television network was shooting a documentary on the double life I was leading, between working in London and going on fishing expeditions. Even though I was earning practically no money fishing, I discovered that it was possible to do the kind of work that would give me a thrill every day.
ER What skills do you need to be a good underwater huntress?
VT Hunting underwater is almost 80-percent mental management, particularly in terms of learning how to be comfortable without air. As for handling the speargun, that just comes with practice. I’ve seen 80-year-olds do it!
ER How has your life underwater changed your life on land?
VT It’s given me a much greater respect for the environment. As human beings, we often feel that we’re masters of the world. It’s just not true – we really are part of nature.
ER You practise sustainable fishing, and you also advocate for it. Tell us about your activist work.
VT Through my fishing photos and videos, I try to make people realize where their food comes from and re-create a connection that we lost long ago. I’ve also started a petition in Canada that would require Canadian merchants to indicate the origin and fishing method of the fish and seafood they sell.
ER What’s the most profound experience you’ve had during your travels?
VT In Cape Verde, I took part in the film Agua Negra, a documentary on the culture of underwater hunting. We were put into extremely precarious situations: We had no money, and we slept on the ground. I realized that we can adapt to virtually any living conditions, and I also discovered an incredible community spirit. The people around us had nothing, but they shared everything.
ER What are your favourite places to fish?
VT I love Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico coast, and the area around Tampa Bay, where the swell is pretty heavy and there are a few too many sharks, but the water is full of fish.
ER Do you ever take time when you’re in the water to just enjoy having a swim?
VT It depends. The beauty of the ocean is that every dive is different. When I’m surrounded by fish, sometimes thousands of them, I hang around longer. If I haven’t seen anything for half an hour, then I get out of the water.