To kick off a new year, we’re revisiting one of our favorite creatures of the sea. A hollow-spined fish species dating from a zillion years ago, coelacanths were thought to be extinct until 1938, when one was caught by fishermen off South Africa’s coast and pulled off the docks by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator at a small museum there. The story of how she persevered to get the 127 lb fish ID’d is fascinating – the museum chairman dismissed it as “nothing but a rock cod.”
She described it as having “four limb-like fins and a strange puppy-dog tail” and as “the most beautiful fish I had ever seen”.
Growing up to 10 feet long and up to 1,400 pounds, with retractable fins and a bullet-shaped body for faster speed, bluefin tuna are among the largest, fastest , most wondrous migratory finfish in the world. They’re also one of the most prized and pricey fish for sushi lovers around the globe.
Thanks to booming consumer demand and overfishing in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, bluefin tuna stocks have plummeted to what scientists and researchers say is the point of collapse. It’s been a quick trip to decimation for this species — bluefin tuna wasn’t fished much commercially until the 1950s, and was so unpopular as late as the 1970s that it was often just bothersome bycatch sold for pet food.
The group that sets bluefin tuna fishing quotas, ICCAT, is holding its annual meetings next week. Advocacy groups, scientists and others are pushing for drastic cuts in the quotas.
“We expect to make discoveries that will advance our understanding of undersea ecosystems, particularly those associated with submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. The geographical area of operation is located entirely within the ‘Coral Triangle Region’, the global heart of shallow-water marine biodiversity. This will also be the first time scientists use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to get even a glimpse of deepwater biodiversity in the waters of the Sangihe Talaud Region.”
The folks at NOAA also sent us this close-up photo, which shows this expedition’s remarkable photography capabilities:
“This spotted scorpionfish was photographed in shallow water off Burnt Point in the Florida Keys. The three bands on the tail help to ID this fish. He ignored us for a good ten minutes while we took all the photographs we cared to.
This well-camouflaged fish can deliver serious puncture wounds with its dorsal spines that cause severe pain and illness.”
Here’s another pic of the fish moving that helps you see it a little more clearly: