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The Happy Fisherman

WRITING: ROMA MEHTA. PICTURES: LEO SEEWALD

When I first heard of ‘The Happy Fisherman’ I was intrigued. Aren’t  all fishermen happy? What was special about this one? So, I checked the YouTube series of that name hosted by Taiwan Plus. I discovered the person behind the name, Leo Seewald. Expressing my interest in a discussion, I was told by a friend that Leo was a great guy and easy to talk to. So I reached out and we had a lovely conversation.

Leo is originally from Canada and has made Taiwan his home for the last ten years or so. He became a Taiwanese citizen in 2019. After a successful career
in finance he has now mostly retired from his corporate life to become a local fisherman.

Leo’s new fishing boat, “The Happy Fisherman”, is classified as a “CT1” 50’ and powered by a 405hp Yanmar marine diesel engine.

“WHAT MADE YOU START ON THIS JOURNEY AS A FISHERMAN?”

“It was a logical evaluation of the situation. I had a boat in Taiwan for ten years. I retired 4 years ago in 2019, then I became a Taiwanese.

Operating a yacht in Taiwan is problematic, there are lots of rules around it. You have to get permission to visit all the harbors and ports, and yachting is very expensive.

So instead I decided to become a fisherman and I am probably the only Taiwanese fisherman of western origin. I took the exam, I got a license and can now dock at any of Taiwan’s fishing harbors.

Taiwan Fishing Harbors

Then I realized there are 230+ fishing harbors in Taiwan, and guessed that no Taiwanese fisherman has been to all of them (they have to fish, after all), so I decided it might be a good thing to explore all of them.

At this point I am documenting every harbor, not only from a cultural and historical perspective, but also talking to the fishermen, listening to their stories,

Navigation Instrumentation Garmin

and capturing the flavor of the harbor and area.

What kind of food is available there? I have a co producer, and a camera crew that follows me. The show launched in January 2022 and I then bought a boat a few months later made in Penghu.

The people I have met on this journey are fantastic and like all Taiwanese people, they were very friendly and helpful. The show is not strictly scripted, it is very spontaneous.

We just meet  people and talk to them about their stories. Many times I go out and I catch nothing. I can be out for 24 hours and throw out a 10 kilometer net and only catch 4 fish.

I’ve been 70 nautical miles offshore. It is more about the journey and what I’m discovering through that journey, and the experience rather than catching fish.”

“WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ON THIS JOURNEY?”

“When I started my journey as a
fisherman in Taiwan, what struck me most is that fishing is not just a job – it is a profession.

It’s not a nine to five: if the fish are in season and weather is not dangerous you go out – period; and you don’t come back until you have covered your costs. It is demanding, dangerous and harsh and you’re always at the mercy of nature.” Fishing is one of the most humbling professions. Unpredictable, but rewarding: you experience nature at its best and at its worst. It has been more than ten years that Leo has been
exploring the waters around this island – mostly with his yacht. He has been through good and hard times, and has seen a lot. This journey however, is a whole new challenge; a little more deliberate and taking him to further destinations. This summer, he plans to sail to Mazu and Kinmen with his fishing boat.

THE PROJECT

Leo’s love for Taiwan, its people, and its culture is

apparent in his stories.

Each episode is about the food, the culture and the stories of the fishermen at each port he stops at. Leo hopes that through these travels around the island, people can appreciate Taiwan from another perspective.

His goal is basically to show something different about Taiwan through this documentation. Up to date he has visited about 45 harbors.

Last year in Singapore the show won the Best Lifestyle Program in Taiwan for the Asian Academy Creative Awards. This year in New York it was nominated as a runner up for best lifestyle program in the New York Television Festival.

Not an easy feat for a show that is only one year old!

Foreigners and Taiwanese often overlook the beauty of Taiwan, especially from the ocean, but this show has touched people. It is Leo’s hope to show people (both foreigners and Taiwanese alike) things they did not know about Taiwan in each episode. “I fall in love anew at every harbor I visit. Keelung is one of my favorite harbors, with the largest fish market in the country from midnight to four in the morning- most people don’t even know that!

This expedition is all about the journey, and life is a journey to discover yourself as you go. In the past, I was a financial person. I never had anything to do with social media, and I never imagined I would become a youtuber. If you had said that even 3 years ago I would have laughed. I don’t even like watching my own show.”

The Happy Fisherman on Taiwan Plus
The film crew. They make it all possible and are the reason the show has such great shots!

The Happy Fisherman on Taiwan Plus logo Taiwan Plus

and here on YouTubeYouTube Icon on COT

COT Edtor - Roma MehtaRoma is a creative consultant, visual artist, and event organizer. She enjoys organizing events and workshops that foster cross-cultural expression.

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