Peanut Butter and Jellyfish Sandwiches

One of the reasons that “sportsmen” come to Puerto Vallarta is for the deep-sea fishing. But will we never learn? How long will it be before we are eating peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches instead of the tuna, marlin and other game fish we enjoy?

According to the website Fishing Booker, “Puerto Vallarta fishing is the strongest contender for the best in the whole of Mexico’s Pacific. With its three legendary hotspots and its prolific end-of-the-year marlin seasons, PV never fails to deliver—even to the most demanding of anglers.

“Banderas Bay is home to light tackle legends such as skipjack, mackerel, mahi-mahi, amberjack, snapper, and—of course—the iconic roosterfish. Looking for something bigger? There are a host of destinations offshore that have earned notoriety all over the world as places where records can be made, and broken. The Marietas Islands, 18 miles from Marina Vallarta and El Morro, a group of rock pinnacles 24 miles west of the Marina, are easily accessible on an eight-hour trip. These are home to a great variety of pelagic fish, including marlin, sailfish, tuna, and wahoo.

“But that’s not all. Puerto Vallarta is one of the best places in the world to catch huge yellowfin tuna, as well as blue, black, and striped marlin (not to mention the sailfish).” Sounds like a paradise for fisherpeople!

But was the fishing even better in the past? How much has changed in the catches from Puerto Vallarta over the years? Unfortunately, I have no idea, but I can tell you what has happened over at Key West, Florida, which has a sports-fishing history that goes back longer than ours and could portend the future locally.

In Key West, tour boats have been taking fishing enthusiasts out for a day for generations. When they return to the dock, the catch is hung on the “hanging board” and photographs are taken of the day’s catch.

This photo comes from a day’s outing in1958. Notice that the fish on the far left is bigger than the guy who caught it. Is it that “good” in Puerto Vallarta today?

Charter companies in Key West have been operating for over 60 years. Many of the photos of the daily catches were stored in Key West’s Monroe County Library. A dozen years ago, they were found by Loren McClechan when, as a grad student, she used them to track the decline in the size of the catches over time.

Loren, according to her website, is “a marine ecologist interested in long term changes to marine animal populations. My research focuses on historical ecology and the applied use of baselines, fisheries conservation, and marine extinction risk and consequences. I aim to quantify ecological change and identify conservation success over centuries and across large geographic areas in order to halt declines and promote recovery of marine animals and ecosystems.”

After checking and measuring 1,275 different trophy fish in the photos, Lorne found that in the 1950s, the biggest fish were typically over six feet long. By the time we get to 2007 when Loren bought a ticket on a deep-sea day cruise and snapped this picture…

… the biggest fish were averaging only a foot, or maybe a little over. That’s a tremendous change. She figured the average prizewinner dropped from nearly 44 pounds to a measly five pounds—an 88 percent drop. Is this what we can expect in Puerto Vallarta?

Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, has noticed that North Americans are now consuming more small fish today than we did 50 years ago. Cod, swordfish, and tuna are gradually giving way to herring, sardines, and anchovies. He says, “We are eating the bait and moving on to jellyfish and plankton.” Will kids soon be giving up tuna fish sandwiches for jellyfish sandwiches? Don’t bet against it!

Sounds crazy, I know, but then there’s this story about the cannonball jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris) found off Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. It is now being harvested for human consumption. US fisheries are catching the jellyfish and exporting them to Asia. In the Dallas aquarium, they are feeding real jellyfish peanut butter, and the jellies seem to like it.

Puerto Vallarta may soon be facing the day when there are no seared tuna steaks available locally, having to settle for peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches instead.

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.
He splits his time between Puerto Vallarta and Lethbridge, Alberta. In the winter months he writes for the IFC, this summer he’s focusing his writing on the environment.