Marine biologist's swim with Atlantic bluefin tuna 'best day of life'

Marine biologist, Boris Worm says diving with giant bluefin tuna was an experience like no other.

Boris Worm says business could be created to offer same experience to others

Marine biologist Boris Worm believes a business could be created so others could experience what he did when he swam with bluefin tuna off North Lake, P.E.I. (Submitted by Brian Skerry )

Marine biologist, Boris Worm says diving with giant bluefin tuna was an experience like no other.

"It's still as if it was yesterday," said Worm as he told Island Morning's Matt Rainnie about the dive.

As head of the Worm Lab of Marine Conservation Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Worm's research deals with trends in large fish populations, things like tuna, cod, and halibut.

The marine biologist said he spent three-and-a-half hours on a dive with National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry off North Lake, P.E.I., in 2012.

"He's a personal hero of mine because he's made some of the most beautiful images from the sea."

The images from that dive are part of John Hopkins documentary, Bluefin premiering Wednesday in Halifax at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Worm said they were not far offshore, maybe three kilometres when the crew, who fished tuna recreationally, began baiting the water with herring.

'They were enormous'

Worm thought they may only see one or two bluefin tuna because reports indicated the stock had been depleted.

"But those fish came up right away it seemed and they were enormous. They were huge animals with eyes as big as small dinner plates and heads much larger than a horse's head and a body just so massive."

Marine biologist Boris Worm says swimming with bluefin tuna was an experience like no other. (CBC)
Worm said despite their size, the bluefin tuna move gracefully and with control despite the speed at which they swim.

Worm said he and Skerry fed herring to the fish, he said the tuna became accustomed to humans being in the water.

"They wouldn't take them out of our hand," said Worm adding they floated the herring in front of them.

"They would be a foot, two feet, three feet away, a tuna would come and get the herring and they would move at great speed and agility, never even brush against us." 

Experience to enjoy

Worm said as he came out of the water, he yelled to the fisherman who took them out, "this is the best day of my life. I can't believe this is happening."

His experience is one he thinks others would enjoy.

"We could maybe build an industry around viewing these animals, much like we have a whale watching industry. We do that when the whales are predictably coming close to shore and we have that situation for bluefin, uniquely in the world, in P.E.I."

Worm thinks many people would pay to go diving, snorkeling or just watch the bluefin tuna being fed from the boat.

"There are different scenarios for people with different comfort levels."

In terms of the documentary, Worm will watch it for the first time with others involved and hopes it will create interest and empathy for a species he says is amazing and fascinating.

With files from Island Morning