Jul 28, 2010


The other day we set out from the ramps just before dusk. The sun was going down as we motored across the calm waters. The temperature was just right, there was light breeze that aroused and the sky was full of the brilliant hues of sunset. Ahhh, it was a perfect evening for romance.

Spawning was imminent. (Cue up the Barry White)

I tagged along with some other fish researchers on an excursion for spawning spotted seatrout. They've been sampling and studying the bawdy little guys for several years now. As we rode out, they informed me that in the summer during certain moon phases, the seatrout will aggregate at night to get it on. I gazed up and sure enough, there was a full moon low in the sky. The ride wasn't long, and we reached an inconspicuous beach and came to a halt. We turned on an audio receiver to listen for the drumming of the males. Yep, they're calling in the ladies. Contrary to their name, spotted seatrout aren't in the trout family...they're members of the drum family. The males make a drumming sound by beating their abdominal muscles to their swim bladders. Apparently the females think this is pretty sexy, so they come a runnin for some lovin.

once you go trout...you don't holdout.

I jumped out of the boat into knee deep water while holding one side of a long seine net. The boat sped away to make a wide arch coming back into the beach. We brought the two ends of the net together and pulled in the slack. As the catch had become more and more concentrated, I could feel fish banging against my ankles. shut up.

We ended up catching around 40 large seatrout in a single net. According to my colleagues, this was a small catch...sometimes they catch up to 100 per tow. The bulging fish were loaded into the back of the mullet skiff for processing.

I was kind of bummed because it was too wet to bring my camera.

We took lengths, DNA samples, and checked for sex. This was the interesting part. To check for male or female, you have to put a little pressure on the stomach of the fish to check for hydrated eggs. And I found out that the more pressure, the more furiously the eggs spray out of the animal. As I'm wiping off eggs from my shirt, someone called out to the person recording data that the first fish of the night was "a female, running ripe". I've decided that most people would have been disturbed by this.

Jul 20, 2010

Fort Knox of Fish

Hey friends. It's been awhile.

I apologize for my disappearance from the land of blogging. While you were desperately holding your breath in my absence, I had some big life changes. I switched jobs and cities, so to my defense I’ve been a little busy with the adjustment. Ok, it was a long adjustment. I even missed the one year anniversary of my blog. Wow. It's growing up so fast....talking, walking, and still not potty trained.
I guess what sparked me to pick it back up again was a number of angry, bewildered people who confronted me. While backing me into a corner and with tear soaked eyes, they would ask:

“What Happened?”

“You stopped?”

“Why have you forsaken meeeeee!?

Ok, no tears… But more with a tone of confused disbelief. It was a little flattering. I thought only my mom read this. She's always been a fan of my work, and thanks for the potty training mom.

Another spark to continue my second-rate writing for you was a recent NY times article (link) which is a well written synopsis of an infuriating subject I’ve been following for some time now. The disappearance of the bluefin Tuna. The bluefin is critically endangered. The Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks have dwindled 72% in the past 40 years. So endangered in fact, it has joined the list of the ‘rarest of the rare’, its name is written alongside the charismatic notables: Polar Bear, Tiger, and Giant Panda.

Have you guys ever eaten Giant Panda before? You haven't?! Ohh my gosh, it’s delicious. I know a GREAT place up the road. It’s really expensive, and they only give you like, two pieces of it. We should totally order some teriyaki California Condor wings too. Two orders of the Black Rhino please.

It’s an oh so common occurrence to find a species to be endangered from pollution or habitat loss, but it’s another thing to drive an animal to extinction because it tastes like candy. Fish candy.

Ok, that doesn’t sound good.

Bluefin tuna is the pinnacle of sushi, and the world has been in a reckless love affair with the species for decades. The texture and taste of bluefin sashimi is supposedly unmatched. The biggest proponents of the tuna are of course, the Japanese.

typical day in happy Japan
Google always delivers. I'm sure you've read this here already, but I’m a huge fan of Japan. The culture is so unique. The ancient traditions, Tokyo lifestyle, the bizarre social norms. Not to mention the people are completely bat@#$% crazy. Japan is like an amusement park filled with Asian people. They’re full of contradictions, unfortunately, even down to their food.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the tuna auctions that take place in the enormous Japanese fish markets. But have you ever heard about the stockpiling of bluefin tuna? The Japanese, knowing that they’re partaking in a dwindling resource, have been rumored to stockpiling bluefin in massive warehouse sub-zero (-60 C) freezers. 50,000-60,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna are stocked every year in warehouses for use when supply runs low or out. That much bluefin could be worth 100’s of millions, if not billions of dollars. How long would it last the country's diet? Probably a year and a half. I bet they'd have armed security detail around that frozen compound. Call it the Fort Knox of Fish.

The Japanese buy and consume 80% of the world’s bluefin tuna catch every year. If a typical sport fisherman off of the Atlantic coast would catch one, it’s immediately packed into a sarcophagus full of dry ice and on a plane to Tokyo. Spotter aircraft find fast moving schools of juvenile bluefin so tuna ranchers can corral them into floating pens out on the high seas and “grow” the fish back into port. Hook and line fisherman use electric harpoons to dispatch them instantly to avoid the fish tainting it's own meat with lactic acid.

Unfortunately, the less there are, the more valuable they become. This encourages increased illegal harvest. The risk vs. reward is more and more worth it, resulting in billions of dollars of illegal bluefin sales occuring every year. The failure of bluefin management is due to the fish's enormous range, wherein unregulated international fishing is taking place. The tuna crosses into many borders where people may not follow the regulations set by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).

The high seas: where the laws are more like suggestions.

for shame...stop eating