Sea fishing is a dangerous occupation, but catch the right fish and you can net a fortune.
With strict quotas, dwindling fish stocks and fierce competition; sea fishing is a tough way to make money.
As popular fish become harder to catch, new and rare varieties of fish find themselves on the menu.
But what are the most valuable sea creatures? And what is the real price of fish?
In January this year, Kiyoshi Kimura bought a bluefin from the Tokyo fish market. The price, for the 269 kg fish was a staggering £472,125 (BBC), but that’s hardly surprising because bluefin tuna are revered in Japan, for their fatty flesh.
The buyer owns a chain of sushi restaurants – and bluefin is the delicacy of delicacies. Once prepared, a tiny piece of raw bluefin tuna, could set you back as much as US$100 a bite.
The high price of the fish is hastening its decline, particularly the Atlantic stock which is now listed as endangered (IUCN). Commercial extinction occurs when a species becomes so scarce that the costs of hunting it, outweigh the income it generates.
But bluefin just keeps getting more expensive – and so it remains a worthwhile quarry.
Manta ray gills
The trade in Manta ray gills is worth around $11.3 million a year (SA). The organs sell almost exclusively in China, where they are purported to cure a range of illnesses from cancer, to infertility.
There is no basis whatsoever, in either Western or traditional Chinese medicine, for the medicinal claims made for the gills. The organs are prepared as a soup – the demand for which is driving the regional extermination of a spectacular fish.
This is particularly crazy because Manta ray are worth far more alive than dead. It’s estimated that to global tourism, the fish is worth a cool US$100 million (SA).
Shark fin soup is an Asian delicacy, the soaring demand for which is driving the catastrophic decline of shark stocks.
The harvesting of fins is one of the most cruel and wasteful forms of fishing. Apart from the fins, everything is wasted. The mutilated creature is tossed back into the sea, alive, to die a slow, agonising death.
Shark meat is full of mercury and urea, so it has little commercial value, but shark fin soup goes for $100 dollars a bowl (Stop Shark Finning). Why the demand? Because serving the tasteless broth at a wedding demonstrates wealth.
A 100g jar of farmed, Beluga Caviar will set you back about £700 (F&F). That’s one expensive snack. The fish eggs should be smeared onto blini, using a mother of pearl spoon, or fed in small bites, on a golden spoon, to a lover – apparently.
If you fancy an expensive, fishy bite though, steer clear of Wild Beluga Sturgeon Caviar; the fish is listed by the World Conservation Congress, as critically endangered (IUCN).
Long lived and slow to reach maturity; over fishing, pollution and the damming of spawning sites, have brought the Beluga Sturgeon to the brink of extinction. And yet, wild Caspian Beluga Caviar, is widely available.
In April this year, a Golden Snapper was sold to a Chinese businessman, for a whopping US$38,000. The fish, which weighed in at 37 kg (Herald), was one of only three or four caught each year, in the Bay of Bengal.
Thankfully, the rarity of this stunning fish, is for once, not an indication of its terminal decline. Rather, the population of Golden Snapper is widespread, but sparse.
If you catch one, you’re in for a windfall that won’t cost the Earth.