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The Ocean Is A Desert With...


 
A fishing lure salesman friend of mine once shared “The ocean is a desert with an occasional oasis”. At first I didn’t understand, however with experience I found this to be true. He went on to point out smaller fish will find protection around anything floating, like a log or debris. The larger fish know this and will raid these shelters. Crossing the South Pacific I found many days without a nipple or strike. Fortunately the boat had an ample freezer, however nothing beats fresh fish. Had experienced a unusual dry spell, then one morning woke up to three Yellow Fin Tuna swimming alongside. Well, I grabbed my pole letting the lure tempt these fellow travelers. All morning, nothing. Finally in desperation I grabbed my spear gun, laying on the deck I speared one. Not particularly proud of myself, however it did taste delicious.
Fast forward a few months, in French Polynesia are the group of atolls in the Tuamotu’s. These are unique rings of coral dotted with coconut palms. Usually with two openings or “Passes” and often a village. Fishing as you might expect is a main source of revenue. The problem is Ciguatera, a fish poisoning. The islanders know when it’s safe to consume or sell. I didn’t. The method is when first arriving, obtain permission to anchor inside their atoll and find out if the fish are safe to eat at that time. There is a test kit available, however real men don’t use sissy kits… Can you tell where this is headed?
Fast forward another couple of years of diving on corral reefs, catching fish one after another, sharing our bounty with the many island villages. Coming into a group of islands in Vanuatu, some 900 miles North of New Zealand, I was just reeling in the last line, preparing to anchor in a deserted bay, when a huge Barracuda took my lure. Well that evening we celebrated with a fish feed deluxe!! Soon afterward the dreaded symptoms began, Cold feeling hot and the opposite tingling feeling of hot feeling cold. The medical books spelled it out. I seemed the only one with strong symptoms. Next  morning I caught a small inter island flight back to Port Vila. The doctor smiled, informing me of no cure available. That wasn’t the bad news. He went on to tell me I was not to eat anything from the sea. Period. Not even a can of tuna from the icy coral free waters of Canada. NOTHING. Well you can imagine what a blow that was. The symptoms did leave, however it was months before reaching the shores of Australia where I finally mustered up the courage to have a shrimp mixed in some oriental food. What goes on in the food chain is small fish eat coral, the older fish store more, especially in their head. The larger fish feed on the smaller, so as this Barracuda doesn’t eat coral you can bet he eats his fair share of the smaller ones that do. Then Mr. Fisherman comes along and eats big fish, completing the food chain, except I got tagged.
Yellowglen Yellowglen 66-70, M Mar 20, 2012

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