Only in Australia could you find a profession herding tuna like a cowboy!
If you haven’t yet seen National Geographic’s documentary on ‘Tuna Cowboys’ hunting tuna off the west coast of Australia, then you are definitely missing out. Chasing tuna worth over AU$8 million, 4 rouge divers tackle 30 foot seas and torrential rain in an effort to protect upwards of 4000 budding young tuna alive… and safe from sharks.
By far the most intriguing aspect of the documentary is the visual display of ‘herding’ Bronze Whalers, Mako, and Blue sharks out of the huge tuna nets and back into the open ocean. The immense size of the tuna catches and the fact that the fish are kept alive to mature and double in size, means that the ship fleet cannot move any faster than 1 knot at the risk of crushing the fish against the netting. This allows dozens of sharks to rip their way through the netting or in the whalers case, swim over the top (?) and devour a few little tuna. Ripped straight from the National Geographic website, the following except sums up the documentary perfectly:
Nick Pluker has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world; he is a wild sea-going cowboy who each year heads out into the perilous Southern Ocean to round up his herd – Southern bluefin tuna. The challenge is to muster the fish, defend the lucrative catch from sharks – eager for a taste of the valuable stock – and return safely to the tuna farm on the coast with every single fish alive and unscathed.
Check out this video, and take note of the way the cowboys delicately handle and almost hug these massive 14 foot Mako and Bronze Whalers!
I also found a similar practice here, just off the coast of Italy.