The Fish Story

Get Skillet Ready for Florida Jurassic Salmon; ‘Mammophant’ Is Right Around the Harvard Bend

By JAY MANN | Apr 25, 2018

After I wrote about huge, nearshore salmon farms in the making in Norway, a buddy from Florida sent me a news flash about soon-to-arrive farmed Alaskan-ilk salmon … fresh from Florida! Say what!?

Seems those wild and crazy once-Vikings from Norway remain in the salmon spotlight, this time via the Norwegian Atlantic Sapphire company now out of, yep, Florida, specifically outside Miami, in hurricane-famous Homestead. There, an abandoned tomato farm is being readied for a 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon, using what the company describes as a bio-secure, state of the art Recirculating Aquaculture System, designed in Denmark.

This RAS system is so advanced and clean-running that the company hopes to obtain an “organic” rating from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – once the USDA finds a way to define organic seafood, something it has been meaning to define for quite some time, complexities notwithstanding.

It’s what’s at the heart of this recirculating system that has sparked my paleo-imagination: Jurassic Period saltwater.

Antediluvian marine waters will be pumped up from 2,000 feet below the Sunshine State’s sultry surface. Wow. Those ancient waters will surely contain the essence of dinosaurs, like 50-foot tall brachiosaurs, or even the soaring archaeopteryxes. While I won’t get into what that dino essence might be, exactly, those drawn-up waters will be purer than anything available on the planet’s surface – by 150 million years.

RAS life will be sweet and crystal clean for those farmed salmon … to a certain fillet point. What’s more, castoff waters will quickly be powered back into the deep earth, being naturally filtered on its journey home.

Per company literature, “Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.”

What the Atlantic Sapphire folks are doing in Florida will likely turn the aquaculture world upside down, somewhat literally, i.e. growing northern salmon in the land of oranges and gators. More so, it will be the high-tech way their salmon will be grown – and their numbers – that could be a gamechanger in feed-the-world-cleanly terms. Self-cleaning aquaculture surely opens a whole new door to purer fish farming.

Atlantic Sapphire CEO and founder Johan Andreassen told seafoodsource.com that the $100 million startup costs for the farm’s “phase-one” could produce 22 million pounds of salmon annually, by as early as next year, or 2020 at the latest.

The fish will reside in 36 saltwater grow-out tanks, mechanically chilled to about 59 degrees. The processing of the salmon will be done on site.

The first salmon eggs, to be hatched and initially grown in the freshwater hatchery, will be placed in November, soon thereafter making the big leap to saltwater tanks. They’ll grow to 10 pounds therein.

“Our rule of thumb is that we’ll get about 1,000 tons of production per acre,” he said. “To put it in perspective, that would mean you could put the entire U.S. consumption of salmon into 500 acres.”

Might the company truly be trying to fill our nation’s growing taste for salmon? Well, it might be an easy fill since over half of our wild-caught American salmon is shipped overseas, leaving a huge salmon void, which is being filled by farmed salmon imported from places like Chile. How convoluted is that? And homegrown Jurassic salmon (my term) might come at a nice price – and speedily so. Atlantic Sapphire’s goal is getting its product “fast to the market” … and as fresh as the land of sky-blue dinosaurs.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, adding, “We call it world-class local.”

The facility is a stone’s throw from the Homestead General Aviation Airport.

A MAMMOTH BLAST FROM THE PAST: I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly walk a prehistoric mile to pet the local mammophant.

Don’t go running for your Peterson Field Guide to Mammophants, to thereafter talk as if you already know a great deal about such creatures. You don’t since they’ve yet to exist. But mammophants are looking damn decent on paper … as decent as a huge, kinky-haired, hugely tusked mammophant can look. By the by, that image is based on how I anticipate a mammophant will one day look.

So, what is a mammophant? Best ask a Harvard research team currently hot on the tail/trail of the proper DNA splicing and genetic engineering to produce a mammalian blast from the past. That Ivy League brainiac pack is developing a unique embryo by intermingling DNA genes gleaned from woolly mammoth remains with a quite live Asian elephant, i.e. a mammophant.

It was the Harvarders who came up with the name, which I find eggheadedly boring. Had they duly consulted me first, I’d have wooed them with my more encompassing appellation, namely Frankenelephantomamma. Yes, it’s perfectly apropos. By the time they’ve spliced and stitched together assorted genetic parts and fragments, the result will be noticeably elephantish in shape but bearing wooly mammoth traits, possibly thick fur and highly unelephantly little ears. Cooly, this highbred mammoth/elephant creature should be able to handle temperature as low as those common at the Barrow Zoo in Alaska.

My big question is what sort of sound the massive manmade mammal will make. I can’t help but envisage a be-muscled Frankenphantamammo, earthquaking across an open field, suddenly stopping, raising its huge head … and out comes the sound of, like, a canary.

Guy in white lab coat: “Don’t try to tell me you were expecting that, Lou.”

The cool part of this Harvard woolly mammoth remake: We won’t need to wait until the next Ice Age to see – or hear – one.

“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.” Harvard Prof George Church recently told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

While the Harvard team’s long-term plan is to – cool term alert – de-extinct the fabled mammoth, they’re not yet thinking in terms of a “Voila!” test-tube woolly mammoth – bopping forth from a slurry of highly viable DNA, collected from the thawed remains of fast-frozen woollys. The de-extinction effort will be, appropriately, more of an evolution. Through advanced Mendelian ratios and generations, the first mammophants gleaned from surrogate everyday elephants will then be used to breed with other mammophants. In genetic theory, this could ever-so-eventually lead to a woolly mammoth-ish thingamawhatever, close to the real prehistoric thing – sorta taking the long way home.

But there could be another perk to advancing mammophants. As DNA development moves forward, it’s a given that a 100 percent woolly mammoth zygote will someday be brewed in a beaker. By then, a mammophant will be an ideal surrogate mom. Face it, we’re eventually going to have us a woolly mammoth.

By the by, for the record books, woolly mammoths were only slightly larger than modern African elephants, the largest extant member of the Elephantidae family. Why not use a huge African elephant for mammophanting? For whatever along-the-way reason, the smaller Asian elephant is more closely related, genetically, to mammoths.

Now, to throw some cold DNA-laced water on the bring-’em-back notion. Jurassic Park is likely out. Even the toughest of DNA has its breakdown point.

In an earthtouchnews.com article titled “The incredible science of ancient DNA,” David Moscato writes, “The oldest DNA sequence ever recovered comes from a 700,000-year-old horse from the frozen soil of northern Canada, and this might be about as old as we can hope for. Research indicates that DNA degrades to a non-usable point after one or two million years, even under perfect conditions, which are rare or non-existent in nature.”

However, that expiration date is well within the life and times of mankind, which brings up an ethical question – a question that must have me firmly in mind. Is it best to let sleeping genes lie?

Not long ago, paleoarcheologists in Spain uncovered the oldest known human DNA genome, a DNA string going back 430,000 years. In a Natural History article titled “Oldest ever human genome sequence may rewrite human history Natural History,” Colin Barras writes that those oldest-ever human nuclear DNA reveal Neanderthals in the making.

“The fossils look like they come from ancestors of the Neanderthals, which evolved some 100,000 years later. But a 2013 study found that their mitochondrial DNA is more similar to that of Denisovans, who also lived later and thousands of kilometers away, in southern Siberia.”

Where they came from is of no pressing import to me, it’s where they might be going, as in here and now – and the Harvard lab. You see where I’m going with this, right?

I’m not the only one wondering if we could use genetic engineering to create our very own caveman. No, not for a petting zoo! I foresee far more scientific endeavors, like documenting what ensues when a caveman jumps on the back of a de-extincted Harvard wooly mammoth, for instance, a snorting, wildly bucking mammoth … with the caveman holding on with one hand and waving a cowboy hat – that I just happened to hand him – in his other hand. Now there’s a sight science doesn’t see on a daily basis.

How could there possibly be a moral or ethical question attached to de-extincting a pre-Neanderthal … buckaroo? Yee-ha!

RUNDOWN: Looks like the bass got here well before the blues. The bay has some serious striper pods mulling about, mainly after dark – more like exclusively after dark. The schoolies are moving around in, yep, schools. They come and go. Plugs, jigheads or bloodworms all work when calling bass to hook. When into them, half a dozen or more hookups can be the norm before things grind to a halt.

Per usual, it’s areas with unnatural light sources that are drawing in night stripers, some to 26 inches, most 20 inches and under.

Bay bass are eating slow-moving crabs, which are traveling flush to the water surface, obviously quite cognizant of the horrifying crab-eaters lurking in the darkness below. Grass shrimp are also on the bass menu, though the main shrimp presence is on the west side of the bay, responding to the love call of the wild.

The LBI beachfront has occasional small bass ... and skates.

Ocean water temps are edging toward the upper 40s off LBI, though boat anglers are seeing readings swinging from the mid-40s up to the low 50s. The upcoming rains will knock down bay water temps, which had been well into the 50s – to the liking of bass.

GET BLUING FOR BUCKS: The former “Simply Bassing” fishing contest is now the “Spring Derby.” The big news is this fine event has added bluefish to the repertoire. Great decision!

To join up, go to lbift.com and click on the “Spring Derby” logo, or stop by the participating shops: Jingles Bait and Tackle, Captain’s Quarters, Fisherman’s Headquarters and Surf City Bait and Tackle.

Years back, when first devising the Simply Bassin’ event, Margaret O’Brien of Jingles and I were working on the sound premise that our fine springtime bass needed some love, so to speak. Bolstering that thinking, it was getting to where the biggest bass of the year were being caught within the spring run. Sure enough, for a few years Simply Bassin’ took in larger bass than the epic fall Classic. Then the great surf-bass depression set in.

Beginning not that long ago, spring surf casting for stripers became defective; ditto for fall surfside bassing. The big fish all but disappeared from the suds, especially when compared to the throngs of stripers we had seen annually dating back a century or more. Frustratingly, trophy cows and schoolie bass in huge volume did not stop rocking the boat, just off the beachline – as they’re already starting to do for boat anglers. I, for one, yelled “Foul!” No one listened.

Should the beach bass make a return, the Spring Derby is ready for them. But, to assure weigh-ins, the event is going with the new flow of springtime bluefish.

Hordes of pre-summer blues have begun showing along the shore like never before, two springs running. The Spring Derby has made them money fish. Again, an excellent idea.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.