Our first life arrived to the tank this week, starting with the abalone. The abalone, which are farm raised in Cayucos, California by the good people at The Abalone Farm, arrive to us in a sealed plastic bag out of a Priority Overnight FedEx box. At the bottom of the bag lies a piece of foam which is soaked in seawater, helping the abalone survive the shipping. The abalone emerge from the bag fatigued from the travel, tensed up to protect themselves from the out of water environment and dehydrated (losing up to 25% of their body weight in water loss). We begin to introduce the abalone to the tank by first giving them a quick bath in some of our tank seawater, followed by a tempering atop our kitchen counter. From here, we place the abalone in a plastic tray and float them above their future home in the tank.
This allows the abalone to begin to acclimate to the temperature of the water of the tank slowly, as the shock of temperature change to the animal could be fatal. After a half hour of this, we slowly begin to sink the make shift boats, a touch of water at a time. Eventually, we release the abalone off of the container and guide it to a spot on the bottom of the tank. It is important that they do not land upside down, as this obstructs their breathing and can also be fatal. After another half hour or so, the abalone really begin to take to the water and start to function as they would at the bottom of the sea.
There is quite a difference seeing the abalone in the water, as opposed to out of the water. They extend a hundred or so tiny black tentacles from around the skirt of the muscle, a part of the animal that I was unaware of in my experience working with them out of water. Several have taken to walking up the sides of the tank, though not all seem to be this adventurous. It is hard to see them make any large movements when you are looking directly at them, yet every time I look at the tank they seem to be in completely different places than before. Its quite fascinating. It's also quite incredible just how strong they are, as we found out trying to pull them off of the tank's bottom during service.
Two days later, Nick "Cake" Janutol (my second in command) headed up to O'Hare to pickup our next batch of new residents, the Blue Lobsters from Scotland. They arrived a bit warm, so we tempered them in a small bath of seawater to help them gradually cool down. We then placed them in plastic containers and floated them atop of the tank water to acclimate them to the water temperature. After a short while, they began to rejuvenate and thrash around. From here, we placed them individually into the tank.
The blue lobsters are solitary animals, and are not particularly fond of one another. They immediately began throwing punches at one another, jockeying for position in the tank. Indeed, the bands around their claws are not for our protection from them, but to protect them from one another. Without the bands, the lobsters would rip each other apart. Such violence and movement is good news however, because it means that they are fit, in good shape, and in a stable environment in the tank.
I'm happy and relieved that both tank systems have been successful and that the animals are happy and healthy in their new environment. We will wait another week to be sure that the tank environment is fully whole and stable, and then we will be bringing the abalone and lobsters in quantities enough to meet the demands of the restaurant. Very exciting times, and I can't wait to begin serving these pristine animals to our guests.