Projects: Eric Magrane & Maria Johnson


November 2015

In mid-November 2015, Eric joined Maria and her students aboard the Cozar IX, a shrimp trawling boat, to gather bycatch data. They boarded before sunset and stayed throughout the night, returning to Bahia de Kino mid-morning the next day. Maria wrote in her notes:

Throughout the night, the rain would come and go. The lightning illuminated the surrounding islands from behind, creating mountainous silhouettes and a reminder of the world outside the deck. At one point, we were in the midst of the storm and the lightning would light up the sky around us—an electric pink, that faded to a pale purple as we boated onward…What kind of humans are we? Sometimes it is hard to know if what covers us is agua dulce or agua salada; we are wedged between worlds of water—terrestrial beings covered in water, hovering above water, standing below a blanket of water, made of water.

Eric began notes on a poem:

that the night
          falls into a rhythm

shrimp heads shoveled
          into 55-gallon barrels

Maria Johnson “By Catching Shrimp” article in Edible Baja Arizona



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Our Plans

We plan to co-produce an art-science project that deals with shrimp trawler by-catch in the Gulf of California. By-catch is a term that refers to everything captured that is not a target species, so in this case, everything that is not shrimp. Approximately 87% of the weight of catch by shrimp trawlers is by-catch fish and invertebrates. This is the instigation of our project. One of us, Maria, has worked studying by-catch with Prescott College’s Kino Bay Center for a number of years. The other of us, Eric, had not been to Kino Bay Center before this project began.

In our pairing, Maria is listed as the scientist, and Eric is the artist; however, neither of us firmly fits into either of these categories. Maria is both a marine biologist and an artist, and Eric is both a poet and a human geographer.

Making a project around by-catch, and the experience of by-catch by witnessing its scientific, aesthetic, emotional, sensory, and affective presence through research over-night on shrimp trawlers will be the primary fieldwork of our project. At the Next Gen summit in Guaymas in October 2015, we discussed the ground/sea work of this project, and will do research on the trawlers in mid-November. We’re excited about the blending of marine biology, political ecology, poetics, and visual art that we will bring to this collaboration. We anticipate that the form the project will take will blend a poem series with ink drawings, possibly to be presented in book form or in broadside/print form. Something will happen.