If one happens to walk in front of the Portuguese Historical Center in San Diego, one will see what at first appears to be an old tree stump. Upon closer inspection, and after reading the description in the display board, it is evident that what one is witnessing is something very unique and very much a part of the now defunct tuna industry that once was the principle livelihood of the Portuguese, Italian and Japanese Communities in San Diego.
Originally placed in front of the now defunct Tuna Hall of Progress, located in the grounds of the Van Kamp Cannery in San Diego, it was moved to the present site in the late 1990’s, thus allowing the present generations to understand some of the methodology of tuna fishing.
Stand in front of the log and witness a perfect example of erosion. Undoubtedly a tree that eroded on a riverbank, washed out to sea, where it was trimmed and sculptured by the waves, becoming the habitat for a host of various forms of sea life.
On February 2, 1981, Captain Manuel Silva and the crew of the Gina Ann found this valuable asset in Latitude 10°, 50 Minutes North and Longitude 96°, 2 Minutes West.
A few man of war birds circling high about five miles away, gave the needed clue to this discovery. The vessel’s helicopter was dispatched, to investigate, with the pilot reporting a floating log, with a sizable school of tuna alongside.
The Gina Anne’s crew immediately set to work, and the following is the result of what transpired from this wonderful find.
1st. Day Caught 25 tons of tuna. Remained alongside of the log the night.
2nd. Day Caught 45 tons of tuna. Remained alongside of the log the night.
3rd. Day Caught 45 tons of tuna. Remained alongside of the log the night.
4th Day Caught 90 tons of tuna. Remained alongside of the log the night.
5th Day Caught 25 tons of tuna Remained alongside of the log the night.
On the sixth day, nothing was caught, and with some reluctance, Captain Silva, prepared to leave the scene, but not before deciding to bring home, the log that had such a unique structure and had brought him so much tuna. The log would be perfect to decorate his patio.
When Captain Silva was asked by Captain Mascarenhas to allow the log to be displayed, in the true tunaman’s tradition, he was hesitant, but with the knowledge that it would be displayed for public viewing and would become an educational tool to instruct the public on how tuna was caught, permission was granted.
In gratitude for Capt. Silva’s donation of the “log”, Capt. Mascarenhas wrote, “Let’s join in wishing that the captain finds many more of these “logs”.
As a result of finding the “log”, 230 tons of tuna were caught, enabling this vessel to save 15,000 to 25,000 gallons of valuable and costly fuel, plus the added wear and tear of operating his main engine.
Findings of this sort were good for the crew’s morale, since it helped shorten the trip, bringing the crew home more quickly.
One may wonder why tuna accumulates under a log. A log adrift at sea grows marine grass over a period of time and thus attracts smaller fish that can hide and feel secure from the larger fish. This in turn attracts larger fish that then attract the tuna.
This log at the time of its finding had accumulated two tons of smaller fish. Captain Silva estimated that along with the 230 tons of tuna caught, he also caught at least 10 tons of shark. This is a normal occurrence for these types of situations.
Although not very common, finding a school of tuna around a log does happen, and because of the amount of tuna usually found around floating logs, “log fishing” become a desired method for catching tuna.
Per Capt. Mascarenhas,” prior to leaving the area, Captain Silva threw another log over the side, in the hope that he would later find it, with the same results.
José Maurício Lomelino Alves
Original Script written by Captain Anthony Mascarenhas
To view the log, visit the Portuguese Historical Center, 2831 Avenida de Portugal, San Diego, CA 92106