The Fish Story

Wicked Winters Start a Pendulum Swing; Unidentified Fishing Object Hits Norway

By JAY MANN | Apr 18, 2018

I liken this past weekend to an anglerfish. An anglerfish is a bottom-feeding lump of piscatorial ugliness. It lies in wait in the mud, enticing forage fish to its cavernous mouth by dangling one of the wildest tongues this side of of old Paree, drawing meals in by seductively wiggling a wormlike extension of that tongue. Well, we all became a metaphorical meal for this past anglerfish weekend, as we were suckered in by a beautifully dangling sunny Saturday, which looked like manna for those of us hungering for a stretch of normal springtime. Then came the chomp-down! Overnight a raw cloudiness muscled in, bearing dank, rainy, gusty crappiness. In a matter of a few hours, it went from well into the 70s to the upper 30s; wind chills in the 20s. We were sucked back into the belly of this beastly winter.

I know that’s a lot of rhetorical spitefulness, but being a spring aficionado from birth, I find the ongoing lack of a proper springness hits a nerve, depriving me of an essential re-energization.

This rant is a decent lead-in to another one of my flashbacks to olden baymen days, during which I was more of a bayboy. Back then, wicked winters were traditionally seen as omens of opposite things to come. I’d be sternly told, “We’re gonna pay this summer, son. We’ll fry one good. Yuoz just watch.”

And watch I did. And, sure enough, by that summer I’d be treading clams while getting savagely sun baked – seemingly paying the pendulum-swing piper. Those be-gnarled baymen sure had the weather fully pegged. Of course, years later, when I scientifically compared winter and summer temperatures from the recorded meteorological past, it indicated that unbearable winters being followed by insufferable summers occurred in perfect alignment with a little thing called the law of averages. To me, that only proved the law of averages doesn’t clam. Therefore, I hereby uphold an upheld tradition by sacramentally forecasting a thoroughly sizzling summer, demanding an SPF rating of “Astronomical.”

HOTTER THAN HOT: ’Twas a time that sweltering summers only meant sweaty, hazy, hot and humid times. And, as I suddenly recall, it also meant grossly peeling noses. What coast-summering Baby Boomer doesn’t remember that pervasive summertime skin condition – and the related ritual of fingernail peeling sometimes dime-size sunburn scabs off nose rips … to then go out and slather on Hawaiian Tropic Deep Tan Oil to make more?

No longer are summer-sun beatdowns so simple. Along with introducing sundry melanomas to our bodies, intense solar events now act to further heat our already milder-than-should-be ocean surfaces, going down as deep as 15 feet or more. It’s an ominous meteorological fact that a hyper-mild ocean surface loves to rid itself of excessive warmth by feeding it to any and all cyclones entering our piece of the Western Atlantic.

By the by, cyclone is the more technical term meteorologists would like us to use instead of hurricane. While I foresee cyclone ending up in an abandoned warehouse next to the metric system, I’ll use it, mainly when the word hurricane gets insufferably repetitive. It’s a writer thing, like using linesider for striped bass, flatties for fluke, and dumbass for numbnuts.

It wasn’t that long ago when our cool, temperate ocean water temps would mercifully knock the mick out of tropical systems/cyclones/hurricanes. We would indubitably hear, “The hurricane will quickly lose its intensity upon hitting our colder waters.” Well, that soothing and protective “colder waters” thing is fading fast, as water surface temps speedily rise.

I know this is a tad doomsdayish on my part, but duly so. It’s all part of my ongoing efforts to spawn support for any and all national/worldly efforts to cool down the ocean surfaces – and healthfully warm up the outlook for a bright shoreline future. Admittedly it’s sometimes a tad tough to reach the hearts and minds of the outside world while perched on an off-the-beaten-path barrier island. But I try.

Taking to the stump top: My fellow coastalites, hear me as I profess that battling the planetary warm-up is a vital part of fighting the good fight to stay put, refusing to leave the Island without a fight. Such a staying-put struggle will surely take ball bearings of steel – better make that balls of brass – you know, living along the salty-aired coast and all.

UNIDENTIFIED FISHING OBJECT: African Facebook posts were recently rife with startled reports from coastal residents of the Dark Continent, seemingly seeing a captured “UFO.” Yes, captured. The huge, abstruse, bright metal object was securely tied down to a barge – and being laboriously towed by huge ships, moving northward along the continent’s west coast.

Well, after some research on my part, it turned out it truly was a bona fide UFO – in this case, an Unidentified Fishing Object. It was also a foretelling glimpse into future times … for our tabletops. I’ll explain.

The African sight-to-behold was clarified in the aquaculture trade publication Undercurrent News (undercurrentnews.com), which sported a story headlined “SalMar offshore salmon farm mistaken for spaceship in South Africa.”

Yep, it was actually an on-the-move, prefab mega-sized fish farm, traveling from China to SalMar headquarters in Norway. It has the makings of a gamechanger for the aquaculture realm.

SalMar is the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon. It is among the most progressive of fish farming firms, as indicated by Ocean Farm 1, the trade name given its massive prefab fish-raising facility, soon to be the world’s first offshore fish farm.

Per company literature, the aim of its offshore fish farming is to “reduce environmental footprints, improve fish welfare and answer acreage challenges. The learning and new solutions from the project could represent a new era in sustainable seafood production – and is potentially adaptable worldwide.”

China loves the prefab idea from its own industrial angle, as other costly fish farms are already being built there for SalMar. The Asian builders also have a keen sense of what the fish farms are all about, China being the planet’s top importer of farmed seafood.

Hu Wenming, chairman of the farm’s builder, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., told Undercurrent News that the facility is the world’s first offshore salmon farming equipment built using the same principles as semi-submersible installations used in the offshore oil and gas drilling sector.

Per SalMar literature, its oceanic fish farming is breaking new ground, so to speak. “It may represent the first step towards a new era in aquaculture. Based on world-class Norwegian aquaculture and offshore technology, Ocean Farm 1 aspires to address central issues related to sustainable growth in the aquaculture industry.”

To me, Ocean 1 is a salmon-based symbol of aquaculture progress. Using the company’s advanced knowledge of fish farming, it will tap into the higher purity of ocean waters to combat a growing – albeit often misguided – distrust of the  common “fish pond” methods of raising salmon and shrimp.

Seafood aquaculture takes at least a measure of pressure off natural fish biomasses. That’s always a plus for recreational and small-scale commercial anglers. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that open-ocean salmon farming will be fodder for the naysayers, sure to speak of ocean pollution and such – albeit utter nonsense. Thinking comparatively, any fallout from open-sea fish farms will be immeasurably small compared to the crap that constantly hits the sea via any of thousands upon thousands of creeks and rivers. Still, I’ll be getting an outflow of crap from certain overly reactive off-green groups, always seeking sexy new gripes.

TASTE OF NAYNESS: I must distastefully bring up a related topic, one that leaves a something’s-fishy taste in my mouth: the alleged impurity of pond-based farmed seafood. Around the planet, aquaculture ponds produce millions of salmon, shrimp, tilapia, trout and, growingly, a slew more species. To a pond, they’re being badmouthed by aquaculture critics.

While it’s obvious that fish and crustacean farming has become a worthy and tasteful way to help feed the world, naysaying groups like Organic Consumers (organicconsumers.org) are publishing snarky articles, a recent one titled “Boycott Factory Farm Foods: But Don’t Forget the Fish.” Boycott. That’s pretty strong language.

While this group has some surface worthiness, including a seeming desire to clean up aquaculture methodologies, they’re surely not afraid to use questionable scare tactic to spook food out of people’s mouths.

Its website warns, “The U.S. industrial agriculture and fishing industry is an out-of-control system based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons and fish pens; labor exploitation; false advertising … corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters.”

I’d say that stance casts a bit of a pall over efforts to feed the masses in a sustainable manner.

Since readers of this column are seriously insightful, see if you can see the nonsense in this website read from Organic Consumers.

“Another reason for conscious consumers to stop buying or consuming salmon and other factory farmed fish … is because our over-consumption of industrially harvested or farmed fish threatens the food security of more than three billion people across the world. Eight hundred million small fishermen and fisherwomen harvest 25 percent of the world’s fish, struggling to make a living and/or to provide a significant portion of the protein for themselves and over 3 billion people. The other 75 percent of fish are unsustainably harvested (or produced on fish farms) by large corporations.”

Wow. This group seriously suggests that 800 million (How frickin’ many!?) small fisherpeople harvest one-quarter of the planet’s seafood needs, while 75 percent of the planet’s seafood comes from bad-farming and bad-fishing folks. My mind is amiss. How can the grassroots 25 percent conceivably fill the void left by ridding the world of the boycotted 75 percent?  Someone is going fishless; make that millions of someones.

The group does offer an option. “Consume only wild Alaskan salmon, along with smaller fish species, such as anchovies, sardines and herring.”

Uh, that means the entire seafood-loving world should give up farmed and badly fished seafood and turn to “only wild Alaskan salmon.” Hmmm. Wonder how that’ll work out.

The above overreactive nonsense aside, I’ll be the first to admit that seafood farms, while feeding the planet, are often concurrently doing some nasty-ass environmental polluting in the process. Sophomorically speaking, that’s not good. So, fix the frickin’ problems! But sinking aquaculture – which is what boycotting can do – is throwing the sustainable baby out with the fish water. Per usual, I have faith that science will step in, sooner more than later, and find fish farming solutions. In fact, it’s with good science in tow that Norway’s at-sea salmon farming can open the way to sustainable ocean-farmed seafood, which will come out as sweet and healthy as wild-caught.

TURKEY SHOOT: Don’t forget that N.J.’s Youth Turkey Hunt is this Saturday, April 21. Take advantage. See state.nj.us/dep/fgw/news.

I hear you crying, “Jay, how can you be a naturalist and encourage hunting?”

Fair question … now bugger off! Just kidding, I answer all questions to the best of my ability … and then some.

I have forged an educated, two-pronged understanding and appreciation of hunting, buttressed by the astounding contributions hunters make toward saving massive areas of wilderness, via fees and such. Nary a parcel of wilderness area has been saved by anti-hunting groups – all gung-ho to save wildlife, yet fund-less when it comes to actually preserving natural areas, wherein wildlife thrives.

On the other prong, I constantly point out the ecological imbalance arising when a few over-represented species rule the roost, as exemplified by the admittedly quite-cool white-tailed deer. This indigenous mammal has become far too indigenous. It’s now the 800-pound gorilla in the green room, single-tailedly creating a deleterious natural imbalance in the Garden State’s natural and semi-wild suburbia areas. There can be no overall eco-balance with the scales tipped so heavily deer-ward; some must be culled. No, birth control does not work. I’ll write more on that soon.

As to the upcoming turkey-hunting days, the wild turkey is another species that quickly gets problematic population-wise. Gobblers are highly aggressive and pugnacious ground-feeders. They’re more than capable of driving off other forms of wildlife. While state officials have been known to stock wild turkeys, those efforts have come back to bite them when the big birds flourish a little too handily.

Although turkeys have a proper indigenous eco-niche in N.J., it’s up to hunters to make sure that niche doesn’t get overly nichey. But, more importantly to my save-the-wildlife ends, turkey hunters pour essential funding into wilderness conservation coffers. It’s a bloody trade-off, to be sure. But such is life in the most peopled, per mile, state in the nation.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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