The beautiful fishing village of Howth provides spectacular views of the islands Ireland’s Eye and Lambay. Gulls are circling above in the sky and all this wonderful salty sea air certainly gives you a healthy appetite. Everywhere you look, there are fish shops and seafood restaurants lining the streets of this historic fishing port.
And it’s fish we’re talking about on today’s show, particularly fish colours. We discover why they’re so diverse and how they shimmer with such breathtaking beauty. To start the show tonight, we go to 'where the boats come in', as Derek chats to Captain Raja Maitra, the Harbour Master in the port of Howth…
Captain Raja Maitra, Harbour Master at Howth Port
Derek with Captain Maitra
If you're ever lucky enough to have gone snorkelling or diving on holiday, you'll know what a thrill it is to swim alongside an aquatic rainbow of brightly coloured tropical fish. Walk into any pet shop, and immediately your eyes will be drawn to the beautiful variety of iridescent fish in blues, yellows, golds. But why is it when we go to the fishmongers, the fish there have generally dull, neutral colours? Why are some fish brightly coloured and others not? What is the evolutionary purpose of colour?
That's something that's fascinates Eoin Whelan, who's a PhD student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where he's specialised in researching colour variation within fish. Richard Collins spoke with Eoin, who joined us from the WHRO Classical studios in Norfolk...
So is the purpose of colour all to do with courtship, camouflage, mimicry, warnings and thermo regulation? We put those ideas to our Fisheries Scientist and Marine Biologist Ken Whelan…
Ken mentioned how dramatically the colour of a fish can change once it’s out of the water. With this in mind, Eanna ni Lamhna paid a visit to her local fish shop on the Lower Kimmage Road in Dublin, and asked fishmonger Philip Fitzsimmons how aware he was of how much fish colour can change from the sea to the shop…
Anyone lucky enough to go snorkelling or diving will know just how magical it is to swim alongside shimmering shoals of tropical fish, observing their sheer beauty and diversity of colour so close up. But for a taste of what that aquatic paradise could actually be like, our reporter Terry Flanagan went along to the National Sea Life Centre in Bray, Co Wicklow, where he met the General Manager, Pat Ó Súilleabáin...
The last time Derek went to Howth, it was during the summer with Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland. We were investigating seagulls as they were annoying some of the residents here with all the noise they were making while nesting. The nesting season is now over, but the seagulls are still here as only a small proportion actually migrate during the winter months.
During the summer, you may remember, seagulls were grabbing all the newspaper headlines, in scenes reminiscent of the classic Alfred Hitchock movie, The Birds. They were swooping down and stealing food, mobile phones, even attacking pets and people.
But since then there hasn’t been a mention of them! If you were listening to the show a couple of months ago, you may remember Eanna talking about how she was walking through Dublin city centre one day when she observed something which struck a bit of a chord with her - a man picking up a gull. While Eanna was talking about that moment in Ship Street while she was on the show during the summer, a text came into us from John in Dublin 4 and he quoted this short line:
"In Ship Street walls were built on the bones of men, walls that listen to what the grey gulls tell" (by Gerard Smyth).
It aroused our curiosity, so we went in search of the poet behind those evocative lines - a search which led us back to Ship Street once again. Mooney Goes Wild producer Sheila O'Callaghan met poet Gerard Smyth Ship Street in Dublin, where he read her his poem All That Is Left...
ALL THAT IS LEFT
All that is left of the medieval wall stands over
the underground river that snakes beneath
Fishamble, Cornmarket, Winetavern Street
where we strolled together like the pair in the legend
of Diarmuid and Grainne or stopped to stand in
from the rain that fell on the ghosts of Hibernia.
The orators and the uncrowned king: all the fallen
who rose again on the stonemason’s plinth.
In the Castle yard a tourist camera clicks, makes an image
of the gates through which the English departed
In Ship Street walls were built on the bones of men.
Walls that listen to what the grey gulls tell.
The tourist can smell the lapidary damp
and puddled rain behind the Centre of Administration.
(from The Fullness Of Time, Dedalus Press 2010)
Some of the fish mentioned on tonight's show:
Pike (very plain fish - predator); rudd (prey fish) and perch (both very colourful); red fish (black dot near it's tail - very useful to escape predators when it's young); brown trout (can change from black to bright silver); gurnard (bright red, "fins when spread out make you feel like you're beside a coral reef" (says Ken Whelan); garfish (have bright green bones, which glow after the fish has been cooked); cuckoo wrasse (colourful, rainbow like colours); salmon and sea trout can change from brown trout colours (with red spots) to bright silver colour in Spring - due to a chemical change, says Ken; stickleback (very colourful). We also chatted about the 'adipose', which is a fin on the back of salmon.
The green bones of the garfish