Meet a mysterious and amazing area resident.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
It seems a standard commute at first—starting along the Central Coast and reaching speeds of 50mph. Only it happens underwater. And stretches across the Pacific.
Meet your long-commuting neighbors: the bluefin tuna, on special display this Saturday at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC) at John Hopkins Marine Station as part of a rare open house.
Stanford Prof. Barbara Block, an expert in tuna, notes that a bluefin they track just went to Japan and back. Twice. “They’re the Lance Armstrong of the ocean,” she says, “one of the most robust athletes in the sea.”
Their trips can reach 18,000 nautical miles in a year and a half and they can grow to 1,500 pounds. But their range and weight also make them vulnerable.
“They’re some of the most lucrative fish in the ocean,” Block says. “But while they’re being sought all over the world, they’re one of the least understood fish out there.”
For that reason, Stanford and the Aquarium entered into a unique collaboration that has made TRCC home to the foremost minds on bluefin tuna.
“Here we maintain one of the rarest collections of pacific bluefin,” Block says. “Researchers can get close and personal. We can study their athleticism, their heart, their energetics.”
Block says they share their findings with international commissions to help them protect the world’s different tuna groups, several of which are very much “populations in crisis.”
Visitors on Saturday will see some new juveniles, meet scientists and learn about the breakthrough tagging system TRCC helped engineer to isolate migration patterns. They’ll also see feeding sessions (at 10:45 and 12:45pm).
“It’s a frenzy,” Block says. “It’s always a competitive moment when tunas try to eat.”
THE FREE OPEN HOUSE happens 10am-4pm at 120 Oceanview Blvd. in Pacific Grove. Call 655-6249 or visit hopkins.stanford.edu or tunaresearch.org.