The Fish Story

Baiting Up for Fungusfish Fingers; When Selfies Take on an Ugly Face

By JAY MANN | Jan 23, 2019

FUNGUSFISH FINGERS … TO GO: Ya ever hear of fungusfish? Mark my words, you haven’t! Still, it’s becoming one of the most popular non-species fish in Europe, where it’s destined to be a surprise hit as a very boneless stand-in for cod-based fish and chips. It’s also migrating our way.

There is no need to discuss the best bait for fishing fungusfish. As you might have miraculously surmised, there’s no such thing, per se. It’s simply the name I’m stretchingly placing upon a non-meat fishesque product that – and you’ll duly balk at this – is being described as not only tasting astounding fish-like but, per one usually cranky epicurean, “surprisingly good.”

The Quorn division of the Monde Nissin Corp. of Japan took five years of development to perfect this described-as “plant-based” edible. It uses mycoprotein as the meat, matching it with rice, wheat and secret flavorings.

A lengthy headline at reads, “Now fish and chips go vegan as Quorn launches battered fishless fillets made with protein derived from fungus.” Another headline calls it “fish fingers,” offering an imaginary anatomical look that should garner interest all on its own.

My first inclination upon reading it is a mycoprotein is a yawner, knowing that mushrooms have long been used to mimic meat and seafood items. Then came a deeper read indicating Quorn products actually use a seemingly unappetizing class of fungus, namely mold, grown in huge, highly specialized vats. Yum. Pass the mold, please.

That balked over, I can see where the multicellular filaments (hyphae) of mold would add a certain texture to poser-fish. The industrial-grade mystery is how the company grows massive amounts of the stuff, producing the tonnage needed to cover its many nonmeat products, above and beyond unreal fish. I have to check on what PETA thinks about humanity growing tons of harmless fungi to then brutally murder for food.

Being a sometimes-fearless trier of new vegan things, I’m ready to nom-nom on a non-fish fish entrée, though flying over to Jolly Old London violates my strict won’t-board-any-aircraft policy. So, I await “fish fingers” and such to reach our shore, which should be very soon since many Quorn meatless creations are already in-country. Stay tuned –and be sure to send me any photos of trophy fungusfish you catch.

NOT FOR KIDS: You have to read it to believe it. Below is a news story out of India. It’s a tender(loin) story about a man, a bear and a selfie … attempt. What could possibly fail?

In a train-wreck-watching way, I’ve looked at videos of catastrophic stunts done to garner fleeting acclaim within social media. However, there’s something profoundly “What were you thinking!?” about anyone walking up to a wild bear, camera in hand, and a “Smile” command on their clueless lips. The new expression for what resulted is a “Fail.”

Researching selfie fails, it turns out bears are among the most common, let’s say, selfie-stoppers. This also means they’re often chosen for pics. As Dave Barry might say, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Selfies with bears have become such a thing that the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to sink signage warning that you’re a frickin’ idiot to even consider it, though it uses slightly more polite park speak. Put me in charge of the signage and I’d have a series of huge roadside billboards showing a bloody-faced Smokey Bear using his iconic shovel to scoop the fresh innards out of a selfie-seeking tourist family. “Remember, only you can prevent …”

But it’s back to India to take in a headline just off the wires, compliments of The Independent: “A man was mauled to death by a bear after he reportedly tried to take a selfie with the creature.”

The story went on, “After stopping to go to the toilet on his way home from a wedding, Prabhu Bhatara is said to have spotted the injured animal in the Nabarangpur district of Odisha in India. His fellow SUV passengers advised him against trying to take a picture with the creature.

"As he sidled up, the bear struck and a struggle ensued. A stray dog also stepped in and bit the bear, but its intervention failed to deter the larger animal.

"Forest ranger Dhanurjaya Mohapatra said Bhatara 'died on the spot,' adding, 'The bear is being treated for its injuries.' "

And how about a round of applause for that dog!

By the by, India had the highest rate of deaths linked to selfies for the two years between March 2014 and September 2016, with 60 percent of all such deaths taking place there.

Those wild and crazy Indians, right? In America, we’d never … Not so fast. Let’s just zip on down to Key Largo, where a “highly skilled” diver who dubs himself “The Shark Whisperer” offers photo ops for his snorkeling clients by routinely giving underwater smooches to a deemed-harmless female nurse shark. Click. Click. Click.

Surprise (or not), his whispers recently turned red, so to speak. In the cartoon version, his air bubbles came to the surface and popped as bloody screams.

Seems the lady nurse shark was a paying member of the LGBTQ community. Mr. Whisperer’s bottom lip was bitten just about clean off. It required 200 reattachment stiches. Personally, I clearly see it as a message that you shouldn’t give lip to sharks of any sort. I know, I shouldn’t joke like that, but check out the headline at that reads, “Diver of Course Gets Bitten After Trying to French Kiss a Shark.” Google it.

Americanly onward to a Florida man, Merv, who snorkeled over to buddy up with yet another deemed-harmless nurse shark. The 20-pound shark saw the 200-pound man as just about the fattiest meal it had ever seen. It latched onto a belly flap – and stayed latched. Fox news went with the telltale headline “Nurse shark bites man’s stomach and refuses to let go.”

Yep, that bugger wasn’t going to let go come hell or high water … even when pulled clean out of said high water.

The conjoined man and belly-savoring shark were both dragged aboard a dive boat. You can check out the fully freaky video by typing in “nurse shark bites belly” on YouTube. While you’ll likely hate the ending – as lethal means were used to detach the shark – you have to love some of the video’s immortal bystander lines, including the nonchalant “He didn’t get your penis, did he, Merv?” or, after stabbing the shark very close to the diver’s belly, we hear someone remark,  “We gotta let it bleed out ... No, not you, Merv.” Too bad Oscar nominations are over.

By the by, don’t simply type in “nurse shark attack” on YouTube since there’s a slew of species-related videos, showing this deemed-harmless species clamping onto all sorts of folks, most often during selfies.

Back to more land-based killer selfies, maybe the weirdest ever recorded involved a beaver. USA Today, in its Reader’s Digest succinctness, simply headlined it “Man tries to take photo of beaver; it kills him.” No way! Offering none of the incident’s incidentals, the story simply mentions in passing, “Beaver can bite through trees.” … Therefore, and ergo.

High on the selfie fail list are folks being mauled by … camels. As laidback as these cud chewers  seem, they’re not even remotely opposed to taking healthy bites out of any humans they take a sudden dislike toward, based on unclear camel standards of dislike. Take for superficial instance a now-viral selfie photo of a woman’s head-top being fully mouthed over by an “If I really wanted to” camel. A mere slobbering and release ensued.

That harmless selfie case was small beans, which wasn’t the recent case in Calcutta, where a camel bit off more than it could chew – but continued chewing anyway. In good taste, I can merely offer tiny morsels from a story carried by headlined “Camel bites off its owner head after he left it tied up in the sweltering heat all day.”

The story goes on to explain that the negligent camel owner, when finally arriving to move the sweltering creature, was greatly disliked by the dromedary. “The camel became aggressive and picked up the owner by the neck. … The animal then started chewing …” Again, the story offers distasteful chew-by-chew details. Suffice it to imply: It became a two-part tale.

Unbelievably, that camel’s tail is oddly paralleled by a WTF!? story out of Tulum Seaside Resort, Mexico, a nation known for its huge roving herds of camels. Yeah, right. The Tulum camel was imported by resort owner Richard Mileski of Chicago. It was meant as a selfie attraction. Oh, it became such an attraction that you might want to cover the kids’ eyes.

Although Mileski and his camel seemingly hit it off for years, there came that one bad day, as in really bad. How really bad? According to the resort’s law enforcement authority, Alberto Canto, “The camel kicked and bit him practically to death, and when he was almost dead, he sat on him. Between the blows and the weight of the camel on top of him, he was asphyxiated.”

So, what enraged the camel to become spitting – and sitting – mad? Mileski was apparently hooved into the hereafter over what we, as humans, can only slightly understand. Canto reported, “(Mileski) would always give the camel a soft drink, and apparently, that day he didn’t give him the Coca-Cola.” Hmmm. I might just have to double check the definition of justifiable homicide. At the same time, I now understand never seeing a soul offering a Coke to a camel throughout the whole of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

WARM AND WEIRD: Last year, aka 2018, saw the warmest oceans since reliable temperature-taking of the seas began over 70 years ago. It beats out the former warmest-yet ocean years of – pattern alert! – 2014, 2015 and 2016.

There’s no need to over-hype this disturbing and disruptive trend. The numbers speak volumes. What should resonate among all breeds of fishermen is how these temp increases are starting to confuse the hell out of just about every living thing in marine biosystems, particularly those in temperature zones, where radical seasonal water temperature swings are becoming a little too dynamic for those marine creatures living within.

Virtually every marine fish species in our domain adjusts its travels and lifestyles based on water temperatures. All follow favorable temps for spawning, migrating, comfort and foraging.

It’s at the forage level that things get complex, down to the microscopic level. For instance, ideal water temperatures are essential for the lives and times of planktons, comprised of plankters including diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals.

Plankton is crucial to many prime filter-feeding forage fish. Wherever this microscopic foodstuff drifts, so follow the filter feeders. We all covetously know that which follows the forage fish.

Knocking water temps unnaturally upward knocks plankton for a loop. Looping is not a good thing when it comes to the natural flow of things.

While it might seem that warmer waters would accelerate the reproduction of phytoplankton and such, it’s never that simple. There are certain microorganisms suited for each water temperature. Changes, particularly rapid ones, leave some vital microorganisms in the lurch. What happens to other higher animals, like forage fish, that require the ousted organisms? Sure, warmer water microorganisms might shine under a hotter sun, but overabundance is a known destroyer of entire ecosystems. Simply, it’s never good to unbalance a balanced system.

The plankton/forage/gamefish chain displays a clear-cut relationship with out-of-kilter oceanic water temp changes. And it won’t take tons of time for biosystems to be frazzled by rapidly changing conditions. It can literally show in one season. In fact, it may have shown seasonally for years now, being overlooked or ignored.

As the people of the planet make unimpressive overtures toward correcting the ongoing damaging of the atmosphere, its immediate impacts on the seas are becoming all too obvious – and confounding – to fishermen. Many popular marine gamefish have begun making some unprecedented changes in their usual travels and behaviors. Along those lines, it’s worth wondering if that explains the shifting comings and goings of bluefish, which are highly temperature sensitive. In a way, they’re the toothy canaries in the cool mine when it comes to showing the insidious impacts of big-picture environmental swings. Come spring and summer, might they be annually moving farther northward – and outward – when seeking forage and comfortable waters? If so, they will end up east of Newfoundland, meaning the fastest route to where they go come fall might be well out at sea.

This coming year will surely see more and more eco news regarding confusion within oceanic biosystems. Things could get highly state-specific. Just last week, New York filed a lawsuit over its allocation of summer flounder due to “the fluke moving due to climate change.” There are similar fishery management changes being considered based solely on warming seas. That’s pretty tangible stuff, considering many folks refuse to recognize that water temp changes are now a major player in the fishing realm.

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