Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 35 - Something Fishy Going On

Date: 8/4/12 
Location: Costa de Oro, Costa Rica 

Word of the day: Barco de Pesca – Fishing Boat 
Turtle Fact: Turtle Excluder Device (TED): Bycatch in shrimp trawls has been a major threat to sea turtles world wide. Shrimp are caught using an otter trawl, a cone-shaped net towed behind a boat that can scoop up everything in its path, including unwanted fish and sea turtles. Sea turtles will likely drown if they are caught in the net.
To reduce this threat, the U.S. required all shrimp trawlers to install turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets starting in 1987. The TED is attached to a shrimp trawling net and is a grid of metal bars that has an opening at the top or bottom, creating a hatch that allows sea turtles and larger fish to escape. Small animals such as shrimp go between the bars and are caught in the end of the trawl.

4:30am wake up. Today Matt, Courtney and I will head to the south end of the Beach where we will help Eric (Lotti (boss lady’s husband) with some fish biology study. After chugging a little bit of coffee we brewed last night we head towards the south end of the beach. We start walking along the beach and soon realize this was going to be very difficult as the tide is really really high. So we take 150the road that runs semi parallel to the beach. What an awesome walk. Just as the sun is begging to rise, we walk along this windy road, filled with all sorts of green vegetation. As we have walked for some time along this road, we head to the beach for some perspective of where we exactly are. Well it seems we only have another 500m to go. YAY. We arrive just after 6am at the river. We are supposed to be meet Eric here on a boat, as he will pick us up, and drop us off at the other side of the river(to paint a picture, the river is about 150m/500ft across and the current is moving very fast out to see).

Eric shows up around 7:30am – it appears the boat got stuck in some rocks and had a little difficult time getting out. The fishing boats these guy fish out on the ocean is about 12-15 ft long. The boats are very simple, mostly painted all blue, with the call tags and the boats name hand written in paint. The boats lights are put together, by a bamboo rod and a waterproof flash light – jimmy rigged nicely. In the center of the boat are 3 large coolers with fish. Usually there is 2 people per boat.

Well 5mins later we arrive at the other side of the river and docked next to the other fishing boats. Immediately people swarm the boat the help unload, separate the fish and to bring the fisherman their morning coffee. We had brought Eric some chilled coffee in a coke bottle, but it didn’t look as appetizing. We learn that our job this morning is measure the fish and weigh the fish, stomach and gonads. This involves
1) Opening the fish (insert knife in anus and slide forward to jaw)
2) Measuring length of the fish, measuring the length of the fish to a certain part of it fishtail
3) Weighing the whole fish
4) Removing the some stomach and gonads and weighing the fish
5) Determining sex and observing what stage of maturity the fish is
6) Weighing the gonads

At this point we throw the fish into a bin to get chilled and then eventually sent off to a store. I am still learning about why we are doing this weighing and data capture of the fisherman’s fish, but I do know it has something to do with sustainable fishing, getting new ecological permits/certifications and localizing of fish retail. However you can find a little more information here on the site -

We go through this process about 3 different species (that I can remember) of fish, Red Tail Snapper, Yellow Tail Snapper, Rockfish. Peeling on the stomachs is definitely something you need to have the stomach for. Sometimes they come out easy, other times you have to cut it out. Sometimes there is blood, other times it comes out clean. Some fish had big stomach, which we would open to find other parts of fish or gravel. I guess one of the fisher man caught a fish, that was actually in process of being eaten by an eel (see photo for reference) – weird. As we finish up, we are informed that the fishermen are going to give us some fish to take home – AWESOME! We get picked up by Eric’s father (Pretoma’s official driver of Pretoma Truck).

Once we get back to the house I start working on getting a fire going right away as all we have is a grill. The only thing is that we do not have a lighter (one of the only times, being a smoker would come in handy. Luckily Eagle Scout Vic and his magical grab bag of goodies brought a fire starter kit (magnesium and striking pad). After a little bit of trial and error, I get a fire going using some less than soggy driftwood and old Palm tree leaves. Inside I had already prepped the fish (de-Scaled, slitted, season and oiled). Once the fire died down and I had the appropriate amount of coals, I put the fish on the grill. WOOO do these look and smell good! Lunch.

After lunch, I finally relax next to the pool (I mentioned we have a pool right?) and pass out for a good 45mins followed by a wake up in the dip in the pool. Afterwards a couple of us at the house work on the hatchery. The tide was pretty high at this point in time, so the work we did was fairly limited. Run. Shower. Popsicles. I make popsicles again. But this time I only use coconut (meat and juice and the milk I make), powdered milk and sugar. The thought is to start simple, master the taste and method and then start making it more complex with flavors. After all I have time to perfect this!

Dinner. With more fish to cook, I prep the fillets of Jackfish we got by seasoning some flour. I also did the same to the “female gonads” which happen to be filled with premature eggs. I fry these in some light oil as the girls prep the rest of the fish taco themed dinner. Siesta.

Patrol. Tonight’s patrol is at 1am. Coutrney, Laura and I walk south on the beach. Within the first 10mins we see turtle tracks. YAY. Since the hatchery is not done, we are simply relocating this little guys so the poacher does not see the tracks and then steal the eggs. We end up moving the 96 Olive Ridley Turle eggs to the beach next to our house knowing there is not much foot traffic, nor near an entrance to a beach (where motorized vehicles illegally enter and drive on the beach). We continue our patrol, but no signs of any more turtles nor poachers.

Once we get back to the house, we reward ourselves with a little bit of coconut popsicles. SUCCESS! Sleep.

  • There is something called a tide schedule. Live by it.
  • Fishing is hard work.
  • Seafood travels large distances before it actually shows up in your grocers store.
  • Storing fish in a fridge, without ziplock can be smelly

Food:  Coconut Creamcicles, Red Snapper, Jackfish
Animals: Red Snapper, Jackfish, Eels, Growler Monkeys, Crabs, Dogs

Something I am thankful for: Logistics. Without it, we would be forced to be eating the same meal (seasonally) depending on the region we live in. But since we do have this in place, we are able to eat exotic fruits and “fresh” sushi in a landlocked state in the middle of nowhere.
Something I don't want to admit: I am a bit of a perfectionist and sometimes I believe I can be the only one to do it right (or my way). Knowing this is wrong, my internal instincts take over and I just push my way in to do the job, especially if I know I will have to fix it, or take it over down the road. This was the case with building the fire grill today. Sorry Matt.

Days of Rain: 17/31
Total Turtle Eggs I have saved: 629

I don't know why she swelled the fish I guess she'll die.

thats how good dinner was

First eggs we found on Costa de Oro!

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