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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

A Dinner for Fish

Air Date: Week of December 8, 2017

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The Sea of Cortez covers thousands of square miles between Baja California and the rest of continental Mexico. This vast expanse is teeming with fish, including Wahoo. (Photo: Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peering into the Sea of Cortez, Living on Earth’s Resident Explorer Mark Seth Lender notices a trio of fearsome Wahoo that may be sizing him up for lunch.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Apart from the risk of depression, fish are also capable of sophisticated strategy. At least, that’s how our Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, understood an encounter he had in the Sea of Cortez east of Baja, California.

LENDER: Flat on your belly outside of the sight of land, supported by a bottomless pit of water, the Sea of Cortez does not feel like anyone’s friend. Everything else probably knows this. Or that’s how it seems. I don’t see any life below me. And wonder why there isn’t. All the sparkling stuff of the sea they tell you about must be… on vacation, in some other part. Or maybe for the bright little fishes it is just too far from shore. Who can blame them? It is… unsavory. So much emptiness and to be all alone.

And then, I am not.

They are the shape of spears. Long and thin. Like barracuda, but bigger. Much bigger, than any barracuda I’ve ever seen. Tail fins built in an ancient and symmetrical, vertical way. Mouths toothy as a saw, and that same shape, even and long. Their eyes capable of rolling around to watch, as they cut a close circle, of me. One they could cross - all three of them - in less than the time it takes to fill your lungs.You wouldn’t have time to scream. And who would hear you if you did? They are perfectly spaced. Almost as tall as I am if you stood one on end. There would be no escape.


A pair of wahoo lay next to a yellow mahi mahi and a much smaller barracuda. Wahoo can grow to 6 feet in length. (Photo: Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

But I can feel the thought they’re thinking. I’ve felt it, from hawks who look you up and down so quick it’s over before you know what’s happening. And the verdict of these three Wahoo, cruising, like hawks of the sea? It’s the same as before, when sized up… by those hawks… of the air: Too Big. This judgment having precluded the further discourse of Edible or Inedible.

On their way back the Wahoo circle me once more. Just to be sure.

CURWOOD: That’s our Resident Explorer, mark Seth Lender, and there’s more at our web-site, LOE dot org.

 

Links

Mark Seth Lender’s photography and writings

 

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