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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
September 1998 Vol. 1 No. 9

                    What is a Sea Squirt?

Life by the Shore

A city-bred girl reluctantly leaves home for a two-week summer break in a coastal village -- and finds to her surprise that two weeks were not nearly enough to learn the many wonderful things about life by the shore.







Story by Yellen D. Dequito (14 years old, from Lucena City), illustrations by Anthony C. Quejado (15 years old, from Paranaque). Originally written in Tagalog and translated to English by Marne Kilates, this story first appeared in Mga Anak ng Dagat (Children of the Sea) published by the Fisheries Sector Program, Department of Agriculture

Mom and Dad sounded excited as they told Rosana the news. "We're going to our hometown in Sariaya, Quezon to spend the summer. You'll love it there. It's close to the seashore," said Mom.
But Rosana wasn't too sure. She would miss her friends, and she didn't know a soul in Quezon. "I'd be bored and lonely," she said. "What's so special about the seashore anyway? What do I do there?"

The trip seemed to last forever. Row upon row of houses, coconut trees and wooden tracts of land sped by in an endless blur and lulled Rosana to sleep.

Then, suddenly, they were there. Rosana woke up to a vast blue sky spotted here and there with clumps of clouds. Everywhere there were tall coconut trees, and Rosana could hear the distinct sound of water breaking against the rocks though she couldn't yet see the sea. Aunt Belen and Uncle Narding and cousins Russel and Liza came to meet them.

"I'll take you to the seashore this afternoon," Liza offered over a sumptuous lunch of shrimps, crab and milkfish.

And so, after lunch, Liza and Rosana were at the beach. Rosana had taken off her slippers, the better to feel the wet sand swirling in the rushing and receding of the frothy waves. "This is fun!" she said, marveling at how her feet sank in the sand, leaving tracks that were too quickly swallowed by the rushing crystal clear water.
Then she saw the seashells. "Look!" she cried excitedly. "They're so pretty! They're so big and shaped like fans!"

"You'll see a lot of clams and seashells here," Liza assured her.
The following morning, Rosana met Maricar and Reynaldo. They were children of fishers and they were Liza's friends, so they all went for a swim at the beach, a place they knew so well. Lisa taught Rosana how to swim, Maricar showed her how to float on her back, and Reynaldo taught her to swim underwater.
"Do you always swim here at the beach?" asked Rosana.
"Only when the tide isn't too high," replied Maricar. "During high tide the water is too deep."

"We don't go too far out to sea at high tide," Reynaldo added.
After swimming, they all went to where the fishermen were hauling in their catch. Intrigued, Rosana went closer and heard the fishermen and some other people talking to each other in whispers.
"What is that lady whispering to the fisherman?" she asked. "Why do they have to whisper to each other?"

"That lady is a wholesaler. She buys a fisherman's entire catch if the fisherman agrees to her price," Maricar explained. "The wholesaler who offers the highest price gets the goods."

Over the next several days Rosana met more new friends, all of them children of fishermen. They'd play hide and seek or chase each other, or even write words and messages on the sand. Rosana particularly enjoyed playing on the beach, making miniature castles and mountains out of sand. Sometimes she'd even dig small rivers out of the sand, where she and her new friends would sail tiny boats made of coconut husk and paper. Or she flew kites.

One evening Rosana saw her Uncle Narding and cousin Russel preparing to go fishing earlier than usual. "Why are they leaving so early tonight?" she asked.

"There's a full moon," said her Aunt Belen. "Here people believe that they'd get a big catch when there's a full moon."

And indeed, only a couple of hours later, Uncle Narding and Russel were back with a big haul of fish.

"Wonderful!" Aunt Belen exclaimed. "We have plenty of fish to sell."

"Can I come along when you sell the fish?" Rosana asked.
"Of course! Liza and you can come with me tomorrow," her aunt answered.

All too soon it was time to go back to Manila.

"I wish we could stay longer," said Rosana's father.

"Yes," her Mom agreed. "Two weeks is too short."

"So it's been two weeks?" Rosana said in wonder. It didn't seem like two weeks. Time flew so fast she never had the chance to get bored. She was never lonely, so busy was she meeting new friends and discovering and learning many new things.

"When are we coming back?" she asked her Mom and Dad. "I want to go back to the shore and play on the beach."

"We'll be back. We'll be back, that's for sure," her Mom and Dad answered.

What is a Sea Squirt?

Sea squirts are marine organisms belonging to the family Ascidiaceae. Though seldom noticed or distinguished by casual divers and snorkelers, they are highly interesting and important. They are diverse and colorful, and inhabit all types of marine habitats. They filter bacteria from seawater and can store heavy metals in their tunic (a flexible external covering or 'exoskeleton'). A number of important products have been identified in sea squirts, making these organisms a good candidate for discovery of potential medicinal compounds from the sea.

Children Speak!

This page is for you. If you have any poetry, artwork, photos, comments, experiences about the sea, news, suggestions, questions -- anything at all that you would like to say about our ocean -- send it to

and we'll post them on this page. Don't forget to tell us a bit about yourself (your name, age, the name of your town or city and the name of your country).

Adults who write for children are most welcome too!


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