From a life on the water….

This Conversation Really Happened Last Week.

tunaStrangely enough it was just over a week ago when I noted the average price of Tuna fish was ridiculously low in comparison to the past two years.

The price drop for a factory boat processed can of tuna has dropped more than 40%.

What that generally indicates is an abundance of market supply, too substantial for just a general drop in demand.  Unfortunately, this also means a depletion of resource origin in the water, less tuna swimming about.  Noting a significant shelf price drop indicates the supply growth is several months past.

So I checked global price sourcing.  [Because sport tuna fishing has been a hobby of mine since an accidental catch of a 300 lb “Big Eye” two decades ago netted me enough money to buy a brand new car]  Yep, confirmed, early 2015 Global pricing reflected a tuna price nosedive amid the more famous Japanese markets for “Bluefin”, a market indicator.

Too many of all Tuna species harvested.  What does that mean?

tuna 3In a general sense it means the migratory pattern of the next higher up species on the food chain will be problematic.

That next higher up species is ‘SHARKS’.

That’s why evolution has taught tuna, and all oily fish species, to swim so darned fast.

Spring brings the shark migration from South to North, following the Eastern Atlantic gulfstream.  Slow weekly circles in ever increasing latitudes, headed North, leaving the too warm water behind them and headed to cooler climates further North.

If the traveling food sources along the Eastern Seaboard are “less than” optimal, ie. the tuna pods/schools are sparse, the sharks will travel further inshore in search of food.

As a direct consequence swimmers will be bitten – First in the Atlantic Keys, then on the Florida East Coast, then along the Carolina coast(s), and finally in the North Atlantic coastal areas.

This year? Yep, yep, yep (links above).  As would be expected.

You can log into any Oceanographic search site for sharks and see how the tagged sharks are tracking to confirm any suspicions therein.   Sure enough, Spring/Summer 2015 shows the migratory pattern closer to shore as the bigger predators move in and back out in search of food.

Add the blend of any fishing pier near beach-goers to a hungry predation and a fisherman’s ordinary bait in the water can draw additional attention from a passing shark.

LOOK IN THE BACKGROUND ↓

tuna 4

Bull sharks and Hammerheads are the most common to enter the more shallow waters, the pelagic zone;  However, the larger species, Tiger and even Great White, will follow their hunger pangs too; albeit with exponential rarity due mostly to the scope of their caloric demands.

So when you see the shark attacks this past weekend at Oak Island North Carolina you have a convergence of issues:  ♦ The overfishing of their food source, tuna.  ♦ The migration along the coast April – August.  ♦ A Fishing Pier with bait and food source nearby putting scent in the water.  ♦ Swimmers in the immediate vicinity, on body boards giving the appearance/profile of a food source – ergo attack and release.

tuna 1*NOTE* the non-technical difference between a shark “bite” and a shark “attack” is the removal of part of the victim.  “Bites” are more common than “attacks”.  If the human victim loses a portion of their body, it is then called an “attack”.  Most “attacks” are a consequence of more stimuli where the predator views the visible profile of the victim as a natural food source.

People swimming or wading in the water – not on surfboards, paddleboards, or body boards – are usually just bitten.  People in the water on surfboards, paddleboards, or body boards are more likely to be “attacked”.

People simply look more like a food source (seals, and larger fish) when they are paddling with their arms and legs to the side of a board.

You can expect to see increased ongoing reports of shark and human encounters as these recent “attacks” have gained national media attention.   The bites which preceded them were barely noticed.

The current migratory pattern continues to move further North each week, and if there is a lack of food supply in the region, the sharks will travel further toward shore looking to increase their success rate (eat rays too) in shallower water.

Summary:  It might sound silly but when you see cheap tuna prices in the supermarket, be more cautious when you reach the shore on vacation. Sorry, if you just bought your first stand up paddle boards for beginners, I don’t want to discourage you so here are a few tips: Don’t swim near fishing piers, and be more cautious about using body boards and surfboards when you are paddling (think about your below surface profile).  Skip swimming at dawn (sunrise) and dusk (sunset), and avoid completely swimming at night – especially during a full or bright moon.

Heads up New Jersey !

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70 Responses to From a life on the water….

  1. Fascinating stuff – thanks for that!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. IrishMutt says:

    Thanks, SD!

    My son’s family is heading to a NC beach in a week, so this couldn’t be more timely for me!!

    Like

  3. sharky says:

    That’s why you should always pack a gun when going into the ocean.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mikayla825 says:

    I’ve always been afraid of any body of water, pool, lake, river, or ocean doesn’t matter so I guess that means I most likely won’t be a victim of a shark attack. The funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever lived more than 200 miles from ocean in my entire life.

    Like

    • mikayla825 says:

      Plus, I had wondered why the price of tuna had gone down so much and now I know, thanks Sundance.

      Like

      • bertdilbert says:

        While I agree with points in the article such as swimming near a fishing pier, I doubt other portions regarding tuna price.

        The one article cited revolves around the price of a single fish. The price of the largest tuna at the first auction of the new year. This has been in the past a highly marketed event and has fetched astronomical prices. Sushi bars would advertise heavily to sell customers a piece of the largest tuna at first auction of the year. The drop in price is probably more reflective of economic conditions in Japan than anything else.

        The author did absolutely nothing to prove his contention that it is supply increase that caused the price drop. He only states as proof: “What that generally indicates is an abundance of market supply, too substantial for just a general drop in demand.”

        The author was either too lazy to prove out his assertions or actual research miight give him a different story. My story is when the price went up, I took canned tuna off my shopping list. Canned tuna is an easy go to when you do not feel like cooking something up. Yet at the same time, there is only so much I am going to pay for a canned product when I can get fresh of something else to replace it with.

        My reaction to high tuna prices was a 100% decrease in demand for product and have yet to change my shopping habits. I would venture to guess that I am not alone in my shopping habits and suggest that part of the price “problem” is demand related.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jay says:

          To me, the author’s logic did not seem compelling (except for the obvious, that it is a bad idea to swim near a fishing pier or even where fishermen routinely cast from the beach).
          Bull Sharks and Hammerheads are not fast enough to catch tuna. And that overharvesting should be associated with a price decline is hard to fathom; this would assume time lags of just the right sort.

          Some people have a gift for making connections among apparently, but not actually, disparate events. But sometimes that gift runs amok, as in this story.

          Liked by 1 person

          • bertdilbert says:

            It is easier for an author to write for the narrative, that being tuna stocks are depleting and sharks are endangered. If you write for the narrative you are going to get more exposure. I did a little bit of investigating and found that some brands wanted certification that the fishermen they bought from were certified sustainable fishing methods.

            I used to tournament fish for tuna shark (Mako) for a number of years. We had a good team but our last tournament one of the team members miss gaffed the shark in the belly on a flying gaff. It ripped the belly and the hook fell out. It was a tournament winner money fish and was brought to the boat green. It was at the side of the boat and we had all counted our money before the gaff went in. Nobody talked to each other for like 3 months after that. After that I lost my appetite for shark fishing.

            Liked by 1 person

            • doodahdaze says:

              Mako are bad ass. Fast.

              Like

            • Doramin says:

              If you see the vids of Great Whites lazily swimming around the ol’ shark cage it should be obvious that they are not speed demons. I’ve always read they are marine mammal specialists and they either follow long-distance whale migrations or hang around seal rookeries. Their specialty while hunting is supposed to be stealth attacks from below. That is why they’re practically the Northern California State bird. The “jumping jacks” of the Farallones are Great Whites practicing their seal lion attacks. Makos and Blues are supposed to be the high-speed tuna chompers.

              Like

              • bertdilbert says:

                Makos are smart, blues are stupid. Makos are normally first up the chum line if they are in the area. Blues are like robotic eating machines and that is all they know. If you catch one you can beat it, shoot it, cut fins off of it and it will still come back and eat your bait again. A Mako on the other hand are more cautious and often do not come back if you spook them.

                Blues almost always sound when you hook them, while makos tend stay and fight near the surface.

                Like

        • Doramin says:

          It seemed to me that the super-expensive tuna at the Tokyo market would have to be fresh not frozen. I can’t imagine the sushi and sashimi gourmet restaurant customers would accept frozen. Therefore the high-priced stuff would have to be caught locally.

          Like

    • dginga says:

      I grew up in the Great Lakes where you can get an ocean-like experience without the danger of attacking, biting, stinging and other types of marine life. We do have the occasional problem with alewives, which are tiny fish that wash ashore and are just gross, but an alewife will never try to eat you. We do have some seaweed, but nothing like the ocean. So if you’ve never experienced some of the beautiful beaches along the Great Lakes – especially Lake Michigan – come on up!

      Like

    • Suzee says:

      Apparently, you’ve never heard of the naturally occurring phenomenon of the sharknado,

      Liked by 1 person

      • jello333 says:

        Aarrgghhh! I’m just now reading through the comments and ran into yours. So… I see you got in a “sharknado” comment several hours before I posted mine just a few minutes ago. 😉

        Like

  5. Stormy says:

    That is really interesting… I’m feeling a little better about living in flyover country ..

    Like

  6. Millwright says:

    Great post SD ! Not sure I agree with ‘sharks on the beaches’ being a “new phenomena” though. Years’ back I spent some time banner towing along NJ beaches. Our track was generally a couple of hundred yards off the beaches. I could always see sharks just outside – and occasionally inside – the ‘break’ as well as schooling fish like menhaden and bluefish. In college I used to do some surf fishing around Myrtle Beach for stripers, drum or whatever, (subsistence fishing). Depending upon the tide state I’d get occasional shark hits, (easy to tell, you got bit off ) inside the break.

    I’ll agree with others’ opinion not to swim near fishing piers. Sharks, like any other predator, learn to adapt their actions to conditions. Chum, hooked fish, and offal make fishing piers a buffet. Anyone are anything live in the water becomes prey. And the splashing people do in the water probably is an attractant as well. Still, my prayers for those kids whose only thoughts were about having a good time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nimrodman says:

    +1000 on the fishing pier as an attractant. Bait, certainly. But better hope none of those fisherman are doing tossing more that just the bait on their hook.

    That is: chum. Or, cleaning caught fish and tossing the guts back over the rail.

    One thing about chum is that it’ll get strung out along the ocean surface in a drift line or “streamer” by current and wind. As that chum line drifts away from the pier and downcurrent alongshore, what happens if the inshore end of it intersects with the beach and swimmers? A shark that may be following that chum line by scent will be drawn right up to them. Recipe for disaster.

    So one precautionary take-away from that scenario? Given the choice, have your beach day up-current and up-wind from any fishing pier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sundance says:

      Abso-friggin-lutely !!! on the chum issue.

      It infuriates me to see sport fisherman chumming water near shore or near recreational areas prone to use by people.

      In most Fish and Game jurisdictions it is now illegal to chum or bait for sharks from shore or shore bound structure – AS IT SHOULD BE. Yes, if any of those fishermen were creating a chum-line either on purpose, or even accidentally as a consequence of their haphazard bait use, they should bear significant review. It is a simple rule that unfortunately needs to be monitored – especially at night.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. nimrodman says:

    It’s also common for schools of reef sharks and bull sharks to be chasing baitfish near shore, and this time of year sharks are breeding in the back bays and re-emerging through inlets back out into the nearshore ocean. Here’s a beach closing from today in Florida: http://www.wptv.com/news/region-st-lucie-county/all-st-lucie-co-beaches-closed-due-to-sharks

    Like

    • Ziiggii says:

      Oak Island is also a nesting ground for Green’s, Kemp’s, Leatherback’s, and Loggerheads and visit the shore from May through August which has always attracted sharks to the area.
      Here’s the area fishing report from last week. I noted that mackerels, cobia, trout, sheepshead and blues are currently running in the area. With reports of sharks (very common for this area) schooling close to the breakers some of them large.
      http://fishermanspost.com/2015/fishing-reports/southport-oak-island/southport-june-11-2015

      We are headed down to Oak Island at the end of the month and I had just started to keep up with the fishing reports the past week or 2. I love to surf fish here specially when the spots and drums are running. I’ve only ever been “hit” by a shark and almost all of those were small black tips after they’ve gotten big enough to get out of the salt water marshes and Intercoastal Waterways. This area has always had a large population of sharks due to it sitting at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and the annual turtle nesting, but the last time there was a shark attack here was in the 70’s.

      Like

      • thefirstab says:

        The St Lucie Co. Area is a bit north of my old stomping grounds.
        Sharks have always been part of the beach lifestyle that I remember; the locals knew what to look for but many tourists have no clue. There were regular “shark patrols” during heavy activity, which were unmarked small planes or copters.
        But you sure didn’t hear about it on the news – must keep tourist dollars coming in!
        Bravest/stupidest surfer friends were out there all the time.

        Like

  9. SeekerofTruth says:

    Live in the area of these shark attacks and fish these waters all year long. Not quite sure the tuna species and shark attacks are connected. Tunas are more of a pelagic species while the sharks that are typically responsible for these attacks are bull sharks or sand tigers which spend time nearshore and inside the inlets. During this time of year, there are numerous pods of pogies, or menhaden, swimming up and down the beach that these sharks feed off of as well as larger predatory fish that become their meal. Typically, these shark attacks happen when there is bait on the beach and the water is murky. I have personally witnessed people thinking it was a good idea to go swim inside these bait pods roaming up and down the beach. A good rule of thumb is to no swim near an inlet, don’t swim when bait is present, and don’t swim when the water visibility is poor.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. doodahdaze says:

    Well, When I was in Kona what you want is a nice Fat Yellowfin…Or a rare Bigeye. I got hit by a big double. One broke the mainline then the other went deep. Afrer two hours in hot sun it was still deed on a 50. I could get a few turns and it would take it back. Ugggh. then pulled the hook. Still do not know for sure it was a tuna or a big marlin. I was pulling a couple Ahi Pussy’s.

    Like

  11. moogey says:

    Sundance, It’s good to be reminded that, for every action there is a reaction. It is just a shame that the action is the killing of majestic tuna to be sold as mystery meat in a can. Good read.

    Like

  12. ytz4mee says:

    Interesting. I had assumed that the cost was in response to a plunge in demand.

    After our pre-Fukishima TEOTWAWKI stock was used up, we haven’t bought/eaten fish since, especially tuna.

    Liked by 2 people

    • georgiafl says:

      I love tuna salad sandwiches…wondering now if I or the cans in my pantry would set off a Geiger Counter?

      Like

      • ytz4mee says:

        http://rt.com/news/fukushima-fish-cesium-radiation-548/

        The radiation levels in Alaska and the Pacific NW are off the charts.

        Like

        • peachteachr says:

          Thanks for the article. I cannot turn my eyes from Fukushima since the meltdowns. I feel certain that the secretive Japanese have not told us the whole truth. If they have not worked out some way to secure the remaining reactors, this disaster is only half-way over.
          Loved the information on the migration and cause and effect. All my beaches are on the East Coast, unless I’m on the Gulf. 🙂

          Like

          • Millwright says:

            PT;
            Never worked those plants. We had guys that loved Japan senior to me. Cocktail conversations with them indicated the operators weren’t exactly ‘forthcoming’ regarding operating practices with our equipment. Not that it mattered to them because the old industry adage, “the iron doesn’t lie” told them everything they needed to know.

            Like

      • Millwright says:

        GFL: Stick a few cans in your car and drive across some prominent bridges. Seriously, if you were “hot” you’d already know it not too long after the traffic cop that arrested you turned you over to DHS. Seriously, every bridge and highway is extensively monitored for radiation and explosive traces.

        Like

  13. ZurichMike says:

    Very interesting and makes complete sense — it’s overfishing that is driving the big eaters into areas they would not normally have to search in for food. What I don’t understand is the fact that a shark can swim faster than a tuna when attacking? Tunas are very fast swimmers — and I think of sharks as a bit more lumbering.

    Like

    • doodahdaze says:

      If you look at that belly board it appears to me it was hit by two sharks at the same time. From two sides. A shark would not take a bite of it one one side then swim over and get another bite from the other.

      Like

      • Lulu says:

        Jacques Cousteau, in on of his programs on PBS years ago, talked about the danger from smaller sharks, which some professed to believe were not as dangerous as the larger varieties. He said no, they are very dangerous, but different in that they move in groups and attack food sources viciously, biting here and there until the victim (a person) bleeds to death. Feeding frenzy.

        Like

    • Millwright says:

      ZM;
      You might want to try playing with a mako, ( a fish eating shark). They definitely don’t “lumber” ! BTW, saw your pad ! Definitely top drawer ! Do Zurich drivers still drive the same way as they did in the Seventies ? I still have some relatives nearby Zurich.

      Like

  14. georgiafl says:

    NC locals comments agree with those who say NEVER swim near a pier or near anyone fishing.

    Like

  15. jim says:

    There is a lot of bad logic in that. Here is one, over fishing drives the price up! If the fish aren’t there for the sharks, they are not there for us. Is warping the world to your own biases a prerequisite for being a liberal?

    Like

  16. doodahdaze says:

    My bet, it was a Bull Shark. Near the pier and the fishing even worse. Also any dogs in the water.

    Like

    • Millwright says:

      Gotta agree with your analysis DDD ! Bulls are estuary sharks and pup in fresh water. NJ’s identified shark attacks are attributed to bull sharks. They’re also “smart predators” as Jeremy Wade’s documenting, (via acoustic tagging) bulls plucking sport fishermen’s catches in an African river seems to indicate.

      Like

  17. Chip Bennett says:

    What that generally indicates is an abundance of market supply, too substantial for just a general drop in demand. Unfortunately, this also means a depletion of resource origin in the water, less tuna swimming about. Noting a significant shelf price drop indicates the supply growth is several months past.

    I’m struggling to make sense of this. You’re describing some serious lagging of an indicator for a market (fresh fish) that I would have assumed to be near-instant. Even the canning process, and warehoused inventory, shouldn’t be that far behind.

    Also, it’s not making sense to me that ocean supply would be reduced so much that it impacts shark feeding/migration, while at the same time, the ocean supply is so high that it reduces market prices for fresh fish (bluefin). How do humans over-fish while sharks can’t feed?

    I would assume that shark migration would be a lagging indicator, after human fishing supply drops, after over-fishing. In that scenario, I would think that the price of fresh fish would be a leading, not lagging, indicator. I would expect canned tuna prices to lag, but not so much that prices are dropping while supply has dropped so much that it already impacts shark migration.

    But, I know next to nothing about fishing, shark migration, or fish market prices. Maybe it makes sense, and I’m just not seeing it.

    Like

    • sundance says:

      Commercial large scale Tuna fishing is done on factory ships. Factory ships are just that, factories on the water. Generally harvesting in terms of weeks/months they harvest by following migration patterns. They process as they catch. Canned tuna, is not fresh caught tuna at the seafood market. Canned tuna stems from factory ships and the harvest is in terms of weeks/months. Hence the lag.

      Fresh tuna, whole or steaks as seen at the fish market, is an entirely divergent set of sub-fishing done on smaller vessels, fished closer to shore, usually on 3 day-sets. Wholesalers pay premium for LOFO (last fish on, first fish off). The FOLO (First on, last off) fetch a lower price because they are “less fresh”, 3 or 4 days caught.

      Like

  18. doodahdaze says:

    300 lb. Bigeye…Nice.

    Like

  19. texan59 says:

    Thankfully, where I am, this is the only one I need to watch out for. Good info though.

    Like

  20. ThankYou,Treepers says:

    Thanks, Sundance, for this insight into your choice of avocation “From a life on the water….”, plus your professional knowledge regarding food prices since it’s been mentioned you were in the grocery business.

    This parable catches my interest as to the tuna rather than the sharks. Love canned tuna. Hope the mercury risk is exaggerated. Haven’t noticed a price decline at the German warehouse, but it as always was already below market.

    Sure hope this isn’t a precursor of a coming tuna shortage.

    Would be most interested in any insights you might have as to why the supply spiked so drastically – why was the catch so much bigger?

    Like

  21. Ziiggii says:

    Charlotte Observer article that quotes a person who was fishing on the pier when the girl was attacked.
    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article24407005.html

    Greg Gallihugh, a fisherman from Charlottesville, Va., saw the attack on the girl from the Ocean Crest pier. When a crowd gathered on the beach, he thought at first someone had been pulled from the surf after drowning.

    He had seen a school of sharks – big ones, maybe bull sharks – feeding around the pier Sunday. Water conditions were murky.

    “Maybe it’s one rogue bull shark,” said Gallihugh, who has been coming to Oak Island to fish for 15 years. “Every now and then you get one.”

    Like

  22. pspsst says:

    Time to make shark sushi then! I’m not a sushi person so I know zilch about the edible sushi fish species.

    There is a market difference between fresh and canned fish though. Prices for raw, fresh tuna will be high when overfished conditions exist because a constant and continuous fresh live fish must be netted. If fishermen overfish at any one instance in time – there will be a dump of freshly caught fish (tuna) in the market followed by a lot of canned tuna to rid of before expiry date – hence we see oversupply of non-fresh tuna and less fresh stock in the waters. The period post-overfishing will result in high fresh sushi fish prices and lowered canned tuna prices.

    Like

  23. pspsst says:

    Time to make shark sushi then! I’m not a sushi person so I know zilch about the edible sushi fish species.

    There is a market difference between fresh and canned fish though. Prices for raw, fresh tuna will be high when overfished conditions exist because a constant and continuous fresh live fish must be netted. If fishermen overfish at any one instance in time – there will be a dump of freshly caught fish (tuna) in the market followed by a lot of canned tuna to rid of before expiry date – hence we see oversupply of non-fresh tuna and less fresh stock in the waters. The period post-overfishing will result in high fresh sushi fish prices and lowered canned tuna prices.

    Like

  24. yankeeintx says:

    There are thousands of shark attacks each day that go unreported. The only time they get reported is when the bite or attack is on a human. 🙂
    Swimming in an area that has been chummed is a bad idea, but so is swimming in an area where hundreds of people are smeared with a scented petroleum based product. Splashing around and having fun, sure smells and sounds like a feeding frenzy to a shark. You’ll note that most shark/human encounters happen during the summer months during shark migration, and human vacation, duh. Why would slow sharks follow fast tuna, when they have a smorgasbord on the beach.

    Like

    • manickernel says:

      Yeah, it is a good thing they are not smart like dolphins. Then they would hunt as a pack, run a blocking line along the surf and herd the little humans into deeper water for slaughter.

      Liked by 2 people

      • yankeeintx says:

        Sometimes there is an advantage to being a mammal. 🙂 My mom does have a story of swimming in the ocean off the coast of Florida. Something kept bumping her legs, when she looked, it was a dolphin. That’s when she noticed the dorsal fins in the water, and headed for shore.

        Like

        • jello333 says:

          The people who kill dolphins… I feel the same way about them as I do the ones who kill elephants, rhinos, baby seals, gorillas, etc…

          Liked by 1 person

          • yankeeintx says:

            My daughter is a vegan, and while I think some of her “rules” are insane, it does bother me when certain animals are killed. Not snakes, you can kill them all!

            Like

      • jello333 says:

        Ooh… that’s a pretty scary thought. Not quite as scary as a sharknado, but still…

        Like

  25. frangelica1 says:

    Really good info that makes a lot of sense! I am currently living at the Jersey shore and they have been tracking a great white along the local shores plus there are a huge amount of manta rays in the shallow ocean waters here especially when the water gets warmer especially in August! I probably won’t use a boogie board this year – better safe than sorry!!!

    Like

  26. archer52 says:

    To me, and I could be wrong, the problem stems from our desire to find “new things” to eat as fads or diets. People eat tuna because it is sold to us by experts as a “good food.” same with salmon. Yuppie diets. People quit eating meat, went to gluten free foods etc.

    That causes a huge market shift into a particular food that may not be able to sustain it. Years ago, everybody ate beef, now eating animals is a bad thing (although it does allow for hot actress to strip naked for photo layouts, so nothing is all bad I suppose…?)

    I was wondering when our desire to eat special foods will overwhelm the supply. I can’t wait to the newest fad comes out and we see something like a seaweed shortage or mudcakes become expensive.

    Jeezz…

    Like

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