A novel idea for the transport of fishes

I have had a great idea for a long time, and it’s about fish. Living here in Ohio, you don’t hear too much about fish. Why is that? Well, it’s because we live 450 miles from the shore. And that’s the basis of the great inland seafood problem. Across the Midwest, it’s the same: we don’t have the home base of a commercial fishing fleet right in town. So if we want seafood for dinner, we have two options: frozen, tasteless fish shipped in by truck, or else have it expensively flown in from the coast. The cost of having the fish flown in fresh means the prices at the Columbus Fish Market are high. (Mysteriously, the prices at seafood restaurants on the coasts are just as high.)

The problem of fish transport, therein, seems to be a great hindrance to Midwestern seafood enjoyment. Interestingly, we still consume tons of seafood in this country. Consider, if you will, that in 2001, 8.2 billion pounds of fish was taken out of the ocean, and another 1.1 billion pounds of shellfish were landed. This had a value of $3.2 billion. (There were also 27 million pounds of sea urchins, 82 million pounds of unclassified seaweed, 71 thousand pounds of kelp with herring eggs, and 1.4 million pounds of worms. Oddly, the worms were worth nine million bucks, which means pound for pound, sea worms are more valuable than some cuts of steak.) Even if you assume half of it went to our coastal brethen, it’s still a hell of a lot of fish. But the problem of transporting fresh fish remains.

Enter my grand invention. Conceive, if you can, a great pipeline, connecting Chicago with the fishery ports of Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle. I call it… “the Fishline.” Its purpose? To speed inland the great snappers, lobster, salmon, clams, and halibut that this nation’s rich waters yield up every year, so that these glorious fishes may find themselves right-side-up on dinner tables across the heartland the same day they’re caught! Each major city along the route would have a pumping station where fish could be retrieved from the Fishline. Each day, the people of Helena, of Denver, of Chattanooga, and yes, of Columbus, would open the valve where a great gusher of cod and sardines would release what could truly be described the catch of the day.

Skeptics may say, how would the fish possibly stay fresh inside a giant, tasty pipeline? Well, to ensure that the fish reached Chicago in the same day, the fish would have to be moving at a safe but steady speed of approximately 95 mph. Some may say this would be impossible to accomplish in a giant brine-filled tube. I say, fish are already designed to flow easily through water. So I don’t expect there’d be any problems with moving at this kind of speed through the Fishline.

Some may say that the pipeline could suffer problems, either from old-fashioned accidents, or else some sort of aquatic terrorism. I agree that this could be a serious blow to the successful economic operation of the Fishline, so I suggest that a band of mermen, known as the Fish Guards and belonging to the Department of Homeland Security, patrol the length of the line, ensuring its safety. Fortunately, the environmental damage wrought by a Fishline rupture would be minimal, easily biodegradable, and delicious.

Finally, the question would remain, what would intermediate stops on the route do when they tapped the Fishline and found they’d received a load of anchovies or, heaven forfend, sea worms? Clearly, this would be an unpleasant and unwelcome outcome. The problem of separating the various species of fish in transit has yet to be worked out. Perhaps the fish could be coded with radio transponders, scannable computer chips, or radioactive dyes. Or perhaps the Postal Service could lend some of its substantial sorting expertise to the effort. Or perhaps Red Lobsters throughout Wisconsin will begin offering a Grab Bag Platter. These challenges, I leave to the seafood diners of the future.  I’m a visionary.

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