Oarfish, including the 36-foot-long (11 meters) giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne), normally elude human eyes in the depths of the oceans. However, a lucky group of tourists recently filmed two oarfish in the shallow, coastal waters of Baja, Mexico. The oarfish observers were kayaking as part of a cruise run by Shedd Aquarium and Un-Cruise Adventures.
Oarfish live around the globe in temperate and tropical waters, down to 3,000 feet (915 meters) below the waves. Yet, despite the fishes' wide distribution, oceanographers and other humans rarely glimpse the four known species of oarfish in the deep sea habitat they prefer.
Most encounters with oarfish occur when the animals wash up dead on the beach, or sick in the shallows. The health of the oarfish filmed on the Baja coast was unknown. Last year, a dead 18-foot oarfish was towed to shore by a snorkeler at Catalina Island off the California coast. Then a 14-foot oarfish corpse turned up north of San Diego a few days later. The bigger fish was filled with parasites, reported Live Science, while the smaller fish was filled with hundreds of thousands of eggs, reported the AP.
The giant oarfish sets the world record for largest bony fish, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. Whale sharks and basking sharks beat them for the title of world's longest fish, though the sharks have cartilage skeletons. Oarfish maintain their scale-less, silver, ribbon-like bodies by eating tiny zooplankton and small squid, shrimp and fish. The jelly-like meat of the oarfish has little commercial value.
Myth holds that the appearance of oarfish heralds an earthquake. There may be some scientific basis for the observation of oarfish around the time of earthquakes, though nothing has been proven.
“Deep-sea fish living near the sea bottom are more sensitive to the movements of active faults than those near the surface of the sea.” Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, director of non-profit earthquake prediction research organization e-PISCO, told the Japan Times after numerous oarfish came near the Japanese coast in 2010.
The 2010 oarfish sightings occurred near the time of a 8.8 magnitude quake in Chile. The recent sighting of the oarfish happened after recent quakes around Los Angeles and one week after another quake in Chile. However, considering the number of quakes that occur around the Pacific Ocean's Ring of Fire, it's pure speculation to suggest a link to the sightings.