Scientists Can't Explain Rare Oarfish Found in California

Scientists have no answers as to why two of the largest bony fish known to man washed ashore in Southern California in the span of a few days.

Days after a rare oarfish measuring 18 feet was discovered off Catalina Island, a second oarfish measuring 14 feet washed ashore in Oceanside Harbor.

A crowd of 50 to 75 beachgoers gathered around the carcass of the silver-bodied oarfish before The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arrived to retrieve the fish. Police said the 14-foot-long fish was cut into pieces and hauled away in coolers.

Officers said they had never witnessed anything like it, but they recognized the mysterious, deep-water fish after it made national headlines earlier this week.

"The only reason we knew what it was, was because we saw the news reports from Catalina," Oceanside Police Officer Jon Hoover said.

It took more than 15 people to drag an oarfish from the waters off Catalina Island on Sunday, Oct. 13. A marine science instructor was snorkeling when she spotted the 18-foot carcass with eyes the size of half dollars.

It's been nearly 20 years since researchers at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego have heard about in oarfish in local waters, but they remember it well.

“Last time was in 1996 in Coronado and I believe that was a 23-foot one,” said Fernando Nosratpour, Curator of Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Nosratpour shared video of the oarfish swimming in its environment with NBC 7 and said the clip gives scientists a closer look at the strange creatures.

The video was captured in the Gulf of Mexico, taken by scientists at Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and Environment, and published with the Journal of Fish Biology.

“Kind of swimming upright, kind of looking upwards for food maybe,” Nosratpour said. “They have an unusual way of swimming they have a long dorsal fin on top of their body.”

He said the discovery of an oarfish in San Diego County offers the chance to find out what can be learned from these mysterious deep-sea fish.

“Probably look at the gut, see what it's been eating, that'll be interesting,” he said.

“Again, comparing all these things to the ones that they've found in the past and see if things match up or if there's something different.”

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