Rare fish turns up in Plymouth bait box

A highly unusual fish turned up at Plymouth Fisheries this week when the rarely caught boarfish, also known as a Zulu fish, was landed in a bait box by a local trawler.

The small, orange-coloured fish are not endangered but are not often seen in local waters and rarely caught, so the appearance of this Zulu fish at Plymouth Fisheries was a surprise for those working at the market in Sutton Harbour.

Pete Bromley, Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, explains: “Bait is landed by trawlers as part of their catch and is made up of small or unsaleable fish which is caught unintentionally, as well as sometimes rough dogs, ray backs or gurnards. Trawling is a fairly random method of catching and not species specific, so unsaleable fish picked up by accident are usually sold as crab bait to boost income, rather than waste the fish.”

The diminutive boarfish, more commonly known to South West fishermen as the Zulu fish, is usually only about 15-20cm long, thick-skinned and spikey.

Pete added: “Most people would think this little chap would be pretty inconsequential in the great scheme of things but the Zulu is not quite so humble. It only offers a very small amount of meat so it poses a host of problems for potential processors, and would usually fit in the ‘too difficult box’ but unfortunately for the Zulu, fishermen are forever resourceful and these small fish are now caught specifically for use as fishmeal, with a total allowable catch set by the EU for 2015 of 53,296 tonnes.

“Boarfish are a specifically targeted species and have become a valuable fishery, especially for the Southern Irish fleet. Living mostly on the continental shelf to the West of Ireland in deep, inhospitable waters, it is very unusual to see one on a fish market, and so finding one mixed in with a box of crab bait at Plymouth Fisheries was a bit of a surprise.”

“Improvements in technology mean that more efficient use can be made of low-end fish not ideally suited to human consumption, and the humble Zulu can be processed to produce high-end proteins, oils and calcium for use as food ingredients, as well as lower grade meal for feed and fertiliser.”