By Daniel de la Calle
When we are a small person, the novelty of life and language combined with our imagination sometimes makes us come to the most hilarious and endearing words and conclusions. My daughter is bilingual and I have to confess that oftentimes I delay correcting some of her funny Spanglish words to savor them a little longer.
I started fishing right here
at the age of seven and back then and there you could only hope to catch two kinds of fish with dough bait: a “vieja” (spanish for “old woman”), an ugly looking rubbery fish with horn-like protuberances that not even stray cats were interested in, and the magnificent “sargo”, a beautiful silvery bream that has a touch of gold on the head and a vertical black line just before the tail. The petit sargos I would catch were all juvenile fish because my hooks were lilliputian, but I knew breams got much, much bigger and I already suffered from the fisherman’s obsession with size. Following this account you can imagine that when I first heard about the Sargasso Sea, for us the Mar de los Sargazos or “sea of huge breams”, my eyes popped with the vision of that fisherman’s dreamsea, the surface of the water boiling, crammed with giant silvery fish desperate to be caught and taken away from that concentration of life. My imagination went berserk, I became quite obsessed with the Sargasso Sea, with the sound of those two words, and made the resolution to one day get to that paradise with a fishing line. I later found out that sargassum are a type of seaweed, but lately I have also discovered that I was not the only one with the wrong idea of the place. The Sargasso Sea was always portrayed as a dead zone of lost ships and skeleton crews floating in calm waters, all surrounded by algae and very little or no life. Scientists are currently showing more and more interest in this mega-nursery for ocean fauna and flora where diverse fish, crabs, shrimp and sea slugs try to grow under the protection of the sargassum canopy, eluding the turtles, tuna, dolphins, mahi mahi and sea birds that flock to the area as well. This is why the Government of Bermuda, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, Mission Blue, the US Southeast Region of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, among others are trying a new initiative to establish the Sargasso Sea, that sea within an ocean, as a high protected area.
Meanwhile, on the Pacific coast the Federal Government has announced a proposal to protect 150 miles of Californian shoreline for the severely endangered black abalone. The Center for Biological Diversity informs on its website that the decision results from a lawsuit placed by them “challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s failure to designate critical habitat for the shellfish, which, once common in Southern California tide pools, has declined by 99 percent since the 1970s.” Black abalone first suffered from overfishing and is now under serious threat by a disease called withering syndrome and the sword of Damocles of ocean acidification to the future of the snail’s growth. You can read more about it here.