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Fish #118 Red Gurnard Aspitrigla cuculus
Fish #118 Red Gurnard (detail) Aspitrigla cuculus ~ Fiona Carruthers
Non-recyclable plastic, plastic bags, recycled wire, recycled packaging tape and dressmakers pins.
Height 15cm x width 20cm x length 40cm
The red gurnard is usually found in shallow, inshore waters. It has a tapering cylindrical body, a high broad head, a large triangular dorsal fin, a long second dorsal and anal fin, and large pectoral fins. Other features, which are quite unique, result in these fish sometimes being described as 'walking', 'talking' and/or 'flying'. The gurnard has six spiny feelers which allow it to 'walk' along the seabed in search of small crustaceans and other invertebrates that it might eat. It will also hunt sprats, sand-eels, small mackerel and herring. Their beautiful pectoral fins can look like a set of 'wings'. They allow the fish to 'fly' through the water which has led to the gurnard species sometimes being known as 'sea robins'. The gurnard is also sometimes known as 'the croaker' as it can make a croaking or grunting noise by drumming a muscle against its swim bladder. The fish are thought to fend off predators in this way as well as to communicate with each other. Like a sturgeon, this fish has special armoured plates instead of scales. On the gill plates and dorsal fins there are sharp spines which are a useful defence against predators.
Red gurnard generally grow to around 30cm in length with a one pound fish being a decent catch from the shore. They are often reddish in colour, although sometimes brownish. They are easily confused with the tub gurnard, as sometimes a tub gurnard can be redder than a red gurnard! The pectoral fins are therefore the best way of identifying this species - if blue is present on these fins it is a tub gurnard, if no blue is present then it is a red gurnard.
Despite its odd appearance the red gurnard is tasty and full of firm meat which has the health benefits of whitefish. Oddly, for a species that has no tradition for eating in the United Kingdom, the red gurnard has several local names, including 'soldier', 'elleck and 'rotchet as well as 'croaker'. Currently, there is no minimum landing size and no quotas for the gurnard in the European Union and stocks are deemed to be stable.
I was initially attracted to this fish because of its dazzling colours of reds, oranges and pinks. Also because of its hypnotic eyes and oversized, bulky, armoured head. I was, however, also astonished and quickly fascinated by its surprising and impressive set of un-fish like features!
I grew up on the Lincolnshire coast and continue to live and work here as an artist. I am passionate about our beautiful landscape and coastline and hope to convey something of the glory of our surroundings as well as the instability and fragility of the environment and our times. I chose to use non-recyclable packaging and recycled materials for this project to help make visible the connection between our daily lives and environmental concerns.
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Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941