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Watching the world pass by, one toilet seat at a time

September 24, 2009

Just when you think it’ going to be an average day, you catch a fish, swim through an ocean of trash and the engine stalls.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, Bonnie also found half a toilet seat, Jeff spotted another 55-gallon barrel with fish living inside and Moore, Jeff and I pulled an 80lb. tangle of rope on board.

Bonnie and the broken toilet seat she found this morning (Photo by Jeff Ernst)

Bonnie and the broken toilet seat she found this morning (Photo by Jeff Ernst)

It started before noon when I was at the helm, Moore suddenly shouted for the gaff  so he could hook a Mahi Mahi he’d caught and bring it on board. It flailed around before Moore put it in a bucket, stabbed it in the head and waited for it to die. I have to say, the procedure was pretty gruesome and not having grown up fishing, I realize I don’t quite have the stomach for it.
After the Mahi Mahi stopped breathing, Gwen quickly went to work cutting open the fish’s stomach and found a small square piece of yellow plastic inside. It’s about the size of a popcorn kernel.

And here’s the most interesting part-we’re having this fish for dinner. Now, obviously, I have mixed feelings about this. Algalita is taking a tissue sample from this fish to test for toxic chemicals and we’re eating the rest of it.

Bill and Moore were quick to reassure me that this fish is no more toxic than other fish I’m likely to eat. Are farmed fish any better seeing as they’re pumped full of antibiotics and kept in close quarters with hundreds of their brethren? Are other wild fish better even though they may also contain mercury or dioxins?

Moore said that all food on this planet is tainted in some capacity and Bill said there’s no way to connect the plastic in the fish’s stomach to the level of toxins in it’s tissue. It’s just not that simple.

I started to see their point. I don’t know where a lot of my food comes from and have no way of knowing whether my food is tainted or chemically engineered or full of toxins.  I do my research, try to make smart choices about what I buy and at the end of the day, I’m still looking for answers.

Feeling ambivalent, I ate the fish. It was a true “farm” to table experience-one of the first times I’ve been able to picture the animal, to see it’s face, while I was eating it. The vision was a little jarring and I’m ashamed to say the Mahi was delicious. But it was.

Let’s go back a few hours because a lot happened before that conflicted dinner. From the bow, Bonnie caught half a toilet seat in one of the mesh hand nets. As you can see from the photo she was overjoyed and has already wrapped it in a plastic bag to take home with her. Moore wants it too so they’ve jokingly agreed to ship it back and forth across the country from Long Beach to Wilmington.

Jeff, the master at spotting floating objects from his roost on the boom, saw a barrel and he, Bonnie, Moore and I put on our dive gear and dove in the water. The blue plastic barrel had two holes on either side and over 15 Hawaiian sergeant fish were swimming in and out. The entire barrel was covered with gray algae and gooseneck barnacles. Jeff and Moore covered the holes with a towel so the fish wouldn’t escape, tied it up with a rope and hauled it on board. Gwen individually wrapped each fish in tinfoil and will test the tissue for toxic chemicals back in the lab.

Jeff and Moore with a 55-gallon barrel full of Hawaiian sergeant fish. Photo Lindsey Hoshaw

Jeff and Moore with a 55-gallon barrel full of Hawaiian sergeant fish. Photo Lindsey Hoshaw

Only a few hours later, Jeff, Moore and I heaved an enormous tangle of rope on board after Jeff spotted it while sitting on deck. As soon as it was out of the water, tiny crabs poured out of the center-yellow, purple and gray ones the size of dimes and one as big as a tennis ball.

The rope was two inches around and Moore said he’d never seen rope that looked and felt so organic, one that created the illusion of a natural fiber like manila or sisal.

Moore and I trying to unravel an 80lb rope we pulled on board (Photo by Jeff Ernst)

Moore and I trying to unravel an 80lb rope we pulled on board (Photo by Jeff Ernst)

By the time all of this happened I had enough to blog about for three days! Of course that’s when the engine stalled. The dashboard light went on and the oil pressure alarm went off. Moore guessed almost immediately that the motor had caught on a drift net or a ball of rope like the one we’d found today.

Jeff put on his wetsuit and grabbed a dive light since the sun had already set. He swam under the boat and found almost as much rope as we found today, wrapped around the propeller. Luckily he could easily unwrap it-the last time the crew had to remove net from the motor it took an hour, but Jeff managed to pry the rope off in ten minutes. He dried off and joined us inside eating the Mahi Mahi for dinner.

So that’s it-our most action-packed day condensed into one post. A day that forced me to think about where my food comes from, why synthetic rope has replaced natural fibers post WWII and how a toilet seat ended up in the middle of the ocean.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa Tags permalink
    September 24, 2009 7:07 pm

    What a day!! It’s just going to get more exciting from here on, I predict…

  2. September 24, 2009 9:08 pm

    I agree with Lisa. What a crazy day, and it sounds like you are finding some really interesting stuff! I’m looking forward to hearing more.

  3. September 25, 2009 9:35 pm

    I am stil laughing about your observations, Lindsay. They are great! I grew up on a farm and know what it’s like to consume your ‘friends’. I’m very curious as to who wins the toilet seat competition.

  4. September 26, 2009 9:59 pm

    Just read your last 4 or 5 blogs…amazing what is floating around out there. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue and safe travels.

    Ian

  5. August 13, 2010 10:24 am

    We see alot of debris and trash floating down the Mississippi river but never this amount of garbage. That really is a shame and good on you for shedding some light on this travesty.

    • lhoshaw permalink*
      August 16, 2010 6:15 am

      Thanks so much for your comment! Very sad to hear about all the trash in the Mississippi; I’ve yet to visit a waterway that isn’t filled with our debris.

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