A clear sky on the day of the "fishing experience" outing. Listening to the skipper: Shipboard rules of behavior and what fish to handle with care.
When people think of Nushima, the first thing that usually comes to mind is delicious fish. The waters around this island have long been famous as fishing grounds for top-rate fish. Fishing is the most important industry on the island, and 70% of the parents of the children at Nushima Middle School work in this field.
But fishing is done in the early morning, beginning while it is still dark outside, so the children rarely have the chance to go out on a boat and help their parents. In order for the children to see what commercial fishing entails, though, the whole school sometimes takes special field trips to fishing grounds, where the students can experience this kind of work for themselves.
The salt wind in their faces, putting to sea at last!
A field trip was held this year on October 20, the first in two years, with the cooperation of the students' fathers, who own the vessels. It was a clear fall morning without a cloud in sight, and the sea was calm - a perfect day for fishing. Five trawlers were standing by at the wharf. At 8:30 in the morning students began boarding the boats in groups of four or five. One father instructed the children, saying, "You must obey our orders and be careful with stonefish and rays, because they're poisonous to touch." After these instructions, the boats began to move out to sea one by one. The ships went out in different directions and stopped at points about 2 kilometers offshore. Because they were going to use a trawl (a type of net dragged along the bottom of the sea), the ships came to a place where the water is about 45 meters (about 150 feet) deep. A net measuring 1.2 meters high and 24 meters long was dropped into the sea. While watching the sonar that searches for schools of fish, the students rode along as the boat dragged the net for about 40 minutes. Then a motor-winch on the deck reeled in the net. Sea bream, horse mackerel, and barracudas appeared within the net's fine mesh, one after another.
Trawling is done by paying out a long net from the stern of the boat, letting it sink to the seabed, and then dragging it along the bed to catch the fish. After the trawl the net is hauled in by winding it up on the large rollers installed on the boat.
Stonefish (Courtesy of Toba Aquarium)
So many different kinds of fish!
The fish caught in the net were divided up, and a number of them were not suitable for consumption. The students were somewhat taken aback as dozens of sharp-eyed seagulls spotted the fish and began to circle the boats furiously. The children gathered the fish that people will not eat and had fun feeding them to the seagulls, throwing them into the air.
Third-year student Chiko Aoishi says, "When we were going out to sea, the waves were big and the boat rocked back and forth. We were hit with a lot of ocean spray. When we reeled in the net, there were barracudas, horse mackerel, huge jellyfish, and other fish. A whole bunch of seagulls flew over to our boat. It was a little scary, but it was fun." Second-year student Erina Adachi says, "The thing that surprised me most was all the birds that were flying around after we dragged the net."
Here you are, seagulls! You can have the small fish people can't eat.
There were also some students who became quite seasick and had to spend the whole time lying down, but when the catch (there were even some ships that hauled in small sharks and sea horses) was unloaded from the net, they all gave a cheer. Third-year student Shogo Matsumoto says, "The coolest part was fighting with a moray eel. It took me three times to throw it back into the water; the first time, it bit one of my gloves. That was really interesting!" Second-year student Koji Hayami says, "A squid spit ink on me and my shirt turned black. It was fun, though."
What's it like under the deck? Dad explains it all.
The students' fathers told the children about the joys and hardships of working in the fishing industry: "The boat is often buffeted by waves, and I've fallen down on the deck more times than I can count. But still the sea is fascinating."
Two hours after they went to sea, all of the boats returned to harbor filled with delicious fish, the pride of Nushima. The combined catch of all five vessels was: 80 to 90 horse mackerel, about 100 barracudas, 15 cuttlefish, 20 sea bream, 2 hamo eels, and 40 to 50 squids. Each student received a dozen or so fish to take home as souvenirs of the outing as this year's field trip came to a close.
(From the left) Aori-ika cuttlefish, hamo eel, horse mackerel. (Courtesy of Toba Aquarium)
(Left) We caught these! (Right) Delighted with the big catch! The students' mothers and elementary school students examine the results of a hard day's fishing.