Open Thread: Chapter 1: Loomings

Tis the law o' the sea.

I live on an island in Maine. It’s been 20 years and that still sounds kind of made-up every time I say it. But it’s true, and today I bring you two stories from the briny depths (and somewhat less briny aquaculture tanks) of the sea.

First, can the humble but oversexed skipjack tuna survive our collective appetite for “a cheap and healthy form of protein that was mild on the palate?” Christopher Pollon looked into it for Hakai Magazine.

If you lined up all the skipjack tuna caught in the western central Pacific in 2018, nose to tail, they would encircle the planet almost 12 times….

With such numbers, it’s difficult to conceive of the scale of biomass being removed from the WCPO skipjack stock—let alone imagine that any fish population could be resilient in the face of such a harvest.

A key to the skipjack’s uncanny resilience is a freakishly prolific sex life: they spawn throughout the year in tropical waters and from spring to early fall in the subtropics. And perhaps most importantly, they grow up fast, meaning females start breeding relatively early in life.

Here in my own home state, the glass eel fishery is a big business, and a shady one full of suitcases of cash and international smuggling. In The Counter, Karen Pinchin risked dockside fistfights and the Chinese mafia to try to get a handle on the global eel business.

A few months later, while trying to find a North American glass eel buyer who would speak about eel smuggling—particularly in emerging fishing regions like the Caribbean—one seafood dealer nearly hung up on me. 

“People get killed over things like this,” he said over the line. “You say you’re trying to understand this industry?” He paused. “I would suggest: Don’t.”


It’s Open Thread day! When you rinse the salt out of your hair, hit the 💬 and tell me what’s on your mind this week. Apparently Matt Yglesias is making Substack $860,000 a year? If you’re not subscribed yet, throw me a few bucks if you can, and come say hi.