Saturday, July 14, 2007


Barb Block from the Shogun Expedition. We decided to take the 8 bluefin tuna we caught yesteray to shore to load on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s specially designed truck to send the tuna up to the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC). Because the small bluefin tuna are so valuable to our year-round research program, we need to move them quickly from the open sea to the lab. After the tuna arrive, our team will put these bluefin through their paces. These fish -- the “Lance Armstrongs of the sea” -- will reveal the secret of their athleticism to our students.

So, the Shogun carried its research load of fish to Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s MARFAC facility, where a specially built Tunabago truck was waiting to receive the bluefin. Andy Seitz, a former technician at the TRCC and now a researcher, got the nod to hop into the wells to remove the bluefin. Andy, who's living in Alaska these days, opted out of using a wet suit, and quickly removed the bluefin from the wells and placed them into the vinyl sling filled with seawater.

Each tuna was carefully lifted to the deck, where Mike Lipnick and I put into each fish pit tags that carry an identification number. The fish were quickly carried up to the truck and placed inside the seawater filled tank.

The fish looked super in the transport tank. The tank is kept at the cooler end of the bluefin tuna’s comfort zone. As they go in I love to see them light up as they swim around in the tank mouth’s gaping opening. It's a sign of their continuous need for oxygen.

The Tunabago drove to Monterey, and within nine hours of leaving the dock all 8 fish were reported to look great swimming in our tank at TRCC.

We were back fishing by noon and spent the day hunting for more bluefin. Sure enough, we found a school. Captain Norm’s excitement was palpable as he called out: “Get ready on the bait tank!”

Despite all the live sardines we threw overboard, the bluefin ignored everyone’s baited hooks and continued to feed on a large bait ball. We were all disappointed. This picky nature of the bluefin -- the difficulty of attracting them from their rich natural forage to our lines -- has frustrated us for years. It makes me appreciate how each fish we do catch and tag or capture is so valuable to our research efforts.

Hopefully, they’ll bite again tomorrow. ABOARD THE F/V SHOGUN, Off San Diego, California.

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