Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Good catch, but what is it ?

You can often see fishermen proudly carrying their catch through the streets of Vueltas, the lively harbour of Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera. Mostly I  recognise the species, but a few days ago this large fellow on the cart baffled me. 
A few days later I met the fisheries inspector and showed the picture to him. He immediately said that this is a Mero, belonging the grouper family of fish. The fellow in the picture is of average size as meros can grow much larger and may even attain 500 lbs  (250 kgs) weight. They're highly valued for their excellent taste and the lean white meat has been  compared to chicken. The head makes a delicious soup, I was told, but their gills are razor-sharp, so handle with care.
They are very difficult to catch as they live in holes and caves on the bottom of the sea and usually make for home as soon as they're hooked and have the abilility to bite through strong lines. They also use their powerful gill muscles to 'lock' themselves between rocks and are almost impossible to be dislodged, 
A subspecies is called mero capitan and is beautifully  golden-yellow on the whole body. When a fisherman is lucky enough to catch on of the 'captains', he keeps it alive in a cage to be then submerged again near where it was caught. The mero capitan will subsequently 'call his crew', i.e. attract other groupers away from their hide-outs, and the fisherman has a much better chance of catching them. If you happen to catch it on the menu anywhere, go for it.

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