FERN’s Friday Feed: Tuna at all costs

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Our relentless pursuit of tuna


“Our appetite for all forms of tuna goes back a very long way. We designed elaborate traps for them across Europe as early as the first century CE, making a maze of nets that catch them during their spawning period. But it was only in the aftermath of the Second World War, as our desire for the fish rocketed, that we became so deadly efficient at trawling for them, and so willing to destroy the ocean floor in our quest for them,” writes Katherine Rundell. “Much of our fishing is on longlines – lines with baited hooks which stretch seventy kilometres along the ocean floor, catching fish indiscriminately, discarding anything unprofitable. Dolphins, who often swim alongside tuna, are collateral damage: three hundred thousand whales and dolphins are caught and discarded every year as ‘bycatch’ of industrial fishing. The water is full of corpses.”

The internet’s retro-sandwich sleuth cannot be ignored


“Barry Enderwick is a middle-aged guy who has made himself into one of the more unlikely—and extremely watchable—micro-stars of the food content omnishambles of today’s social media,” writes Jordan Michelman. “In similarly themed videos posted on a daily basis, Enderwick re-creates sandwiches that have been lost in time—like the Cottage Cheese and Egg sandwich (1941), the Banana, Lettuce, and Anchovy sandwich (1924), and the Bran Sandwich (1936). He scours arcane sandwich texts (cookbooks, newspaper articles, and the depths of searchable culinary history), translating their coolness and weirdness for a large audience of sandwich lovers.”

The Cochise County groundwater war


In the Willcox Basin, a remote area of southeast Arizona, a “mounting water crisis has created a groundswell of anger,” writes Jake Bittle, as “libertarian-minded locals who might have once kept to themselves have banded together against [Riverview] dairy and other large nearby farms, channeling their frustration over dry wells into a political battle against big agriculture … The growing water shortage is driving freedom-loving denizens … to a radical solution: state regulation. In two weeks, basin residents will vote on whether to establish new restrictions on large groundwater wells, the first such referendum in state history.”

Shasta Lake helped water California. Now its dryness threatens the state.

The Wall Street Journal

“Shasta Lake can hold enough water to meet the needs of six million people and one-third of California’s farmland. It also provides water for salmon and other threatened species and helps keep salt water at bay in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta …,” writes Jim Carlton. “Until this century, Shasta successfully did all of that, helping California grow to more than 39 million people and the world’s fifth-largest economy. But a succession of ever-worsening droughts over the past two decades has made inflows into Shasta far less reliable. The current drought is the most severe on record, and Shasta’s water level is now 33% of its capacity.”

How truffles took root around the world

Knowable Magazine

“For centuries, truffles were found exclusively in European countries such as Spain, Italy and France, where they grow in the wild. But over the past 50 years, truffle production has experienced an incredible global expansion, thanks to cultivation techniques that have given rise to plantations in far-flung regions,” writes Federico Kukso. “Today, the United States, China, Greece and Turkey as well as countries across the Southern Hemisphere — Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina — have emerged as new producers of the famous fungi.”