Behold the Tilapia

Behold the Tilapia

"I behold the tilapia in its [true] nature guiding the speedy boat in its waters." It takes the dead from dark to light in boat of sunlight.

You see the tilapia in Egyptian art, its fat lips and fleshy body, and again the unmistakable top fin. You see the fish in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, mosaics, pools, shrouds. It is turned to the west, its long, tall dorsal fin reaching across its back. Self-creating. Fertile. Revered.

She is regenerative. It is a fish that feeds the hungry. One of the two that Jesus fed the people. The fisherman, standing in his boat calming a storm, multiplying two fish,  and then eating fish after he died, rising up from the dead.

It is known as the mother fish. The great protector. Able to survive and adapt. She keeps babies in her mouth until the time they can swim and survive on their own. She endures increasing salinity. First 40 parts per thousand. Then 50. Then 60. She is a survivor. But just barely.

The fish is smart. It knows that the geothermal pools provide heated water in the winter, and it congregates with other tilapia there. The fish has bred with one other species of tilapia, and is a unique hybrid in the Salton Sea found nowhere else one earth. A beautiful misunderstood monster.

For more than a century, the fish has provided food to the birds of the biggest flyway and last existing stop for migratory birds in the U.S. Over 400 species of birds stopover at the Salton Sea, and stock up on food, to continue the last two thousand miles home.

The fish is a vegetarian, and cleans the water of algae, yet doesn’t touch the brine shrimp, another meal for migrating birds.

It is true. She has a bad rap. Over abundant, bad tasting, foul smelling, cheap. Climate change, water diversion, and evaporation is killing the Salton Sea. While she may survive this year and next, she has stopped reproducing. And when the sea gets too salty even for her, she will finally die off. And her home will become a vast toxic wasteland. She will die and the birds will die, and even the unsuspecting brine shrimp will die.

So it will be at the end of the age. The net will be thrown, the abundance drawn in, and the angels will come and separate the bad from the good, throwing them into the furnace of fire.