Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving! And Fish!

There was probably more fish than turkey eaten at the first Thanksgiving anyway. I celebrated by going to a fish farm and buying a sweet potato and some apples.

thanksgiving 002

Not sure what to do with said produce, but I want to have at least some kind of Thanksgiving food here and pumpkin has proven to be impossible to find.

Today I finally made it to the fish farm :]

Over this strange mote, passing No Trespassing and No Entry signsfish 004

My Aunt is much braver than I so we pushed right on through. I thought for sure it probably had spikes under it or would swallow us whole, but we made it through unscathed. We found the office with manager inside and asked for a tour. He was busy so the next two weeks I called him various mornings trying to find something that worked and today was finally that day.

At first he was a bit confused to have someone wanting to get a tour, but really gracious and open to showing me around. Even today I showed up and he looked stressed, but still offered to give me a “quick” tour that turned into  an hour and was filled with information. He very obviously likes what he does and knows every in and out of the high tech operation.

Their farm operates as part of a restocking program. They do not grow fish to go to market for consumption, but to be released in the wild to repopulate fisheries when they reach catchable size.

fish 002

The eggs start in incubators in a little room in one of their buildings that doesn’t look enormous with each incubator about a foot in circumference contains tens of thousands of eggs. He opened one up to show me the little pearls. Tiny pink mini marble looking eggs. The few eggs that die in the incubator are kept their to not disturb the live eggs. Because they are decaying, the water is filtered through to kill any bacteria that may harm the rest of the batch. Next the eggs are moved to another room to grow and where the white, dead eggs, are removed with a turkey baster. The eggs hatch at this stage and are then moved to large basins in the same room. The lights are programmed to simulate sunrise and sunset for each season. In the summer months they program the lights to stay on longer and shorter in the winter.

  I’ve read that in some turkey farms the lights are kept on all the time so the animals continue to eat and fatten up quicker. Nice to know these fishies are at least allowed to sleep. Not that I had a single expectation of what went on, but damn, fish farms are a costly, high tech operation. Their feeding system for the bigger fish outside is still done by hand. He was telling me that some operations are released on timers and a guy in a control tower monitors it, but his operation, the workers go around with a wheel barrow and throw the feed right in.

The feed was interesting. It’s fish meal, soy, corn, vitamins, minerals, wheat. He said that it is partly controversial to feed fish to fish. We’re growing fish to feed to other fish, but what’s the alternative? A diet with only wheat and soy? I was too chicken to ask what he thought about the soy, corn, and wheat in the feed as he was being so generous and nice. I can cross “hard hitting journalist” off my list of possible careers. And fish farmer. There is a whole lot of science going on in that place.

The trout eventually make their way into large ponds outside. The ponds are monitored just like the rooms and basins for oxygen level and temperature. These ponds house ten of thousands of fish worth up to hundreds of thousands of Euro. He said if something went wrong their can be a domino effect of fish dying. If a couple start turning belly up it can cause a stress response that kills more and more fish.

fish 003

Another source of concern are fish gangs. Fish gangs. Gangs come in and steal thousands of their fish. They just set up cameras and alarm systems.

While these farms and commercial farms bred for supermarkets have the same regulations, the fish here have slightly better living quarters. This type of farm is releasing fish into the wild for people to fish so they have to ensure the aesthetic of the fish and fin health are in good condition by allowing them adequate room to swim and grow, where the other farms can worry less about overcrowding and pack more fish into one area as their profit comes not from health and vigor, but portion size. The trout here have to be able to survive in the wild whereas commercial fisheries just need to be plumped up and then killed.

They have inspections from a laundry list of agencies and have to hire their own veterinarian to test that the fish are healthy. Once everything is cleared and the fish are ready for the wild they’re transported by pimped out fish monitoring trucks that cost 25,000Euro each. The basins on the truck that hold the fish are temperature and oxygen controlled. Any level that is compromised will set off an alarm to the driver to make sure only healthy fish are being released.

And once released they live as the wild do and get fished as the wild are. Cross breeding is a concern with this practice. To address this, by 2015 all fish farms for fisheries have to begin producing triploid fish (sterile) so that they are unable to mate with the wild trout, compromising the species by creating hybrids (fish mutts!) and endangering the purebred species. These treated fish possess three sets of chromosomes, instead of the normal two, making them unable to reproduce. They live and breath, swim, jump and taste just as normal fish do, but he assured that it wasn't genetic modification as the process was only to place the fertilized eggs into warmer water which prevents the release of the third chromosome. It takes five years to switch over to this practice, this farm is 2.5 years in so their first release will likely be in 2013.

They’re also attempting to bring back an endangered species, pollock, or something. They tried to catch a few last year for two months in certain lakes around Ireland, but had no luck. They’ll be trying again this year, but they’re so endangered they’re tough to find (“so endangered”? I can cross “writer” off my list of possible careers as well)

He invited me back to watch them transfer eggs into the hatchery in a couple of weeks. He was super nice and generous with his time. I can’t get over how full of life everyone I have met is. Over all, awesome awesome morning. Hopefully the hatch will happen while I’m still here and I can keep absorbing the information. This has made me even more anxious to get onto a dairy farm.

Oh yea, and Thanksgiving!! I was planning to celebrate by going to Dublin for my cousins birthday, but I feel like rubbish. It’s the meat. Two years off meat and I wasn’t sick once. One month of having meat here and there and I’ve gotten the sniffles twice. So maybe I will not be indulging in that cheeseburger after all. I have the sweet potato and apples to whip something Thanksgivingy up, but I’m really just jonsin for some NY pizza.

No comments:

Post a Comment