A day at the beach with a pair of Oarfish

When I think of vacations to Mexico, I think margaritas and lounging at the beach. But last month in Baja California, this group of tourists got a surprise of the unusual kind. Not one, but TWO Oarfish trying to strand themselves on the beach. Thankfully these were tourists of the ordinary kind and they came equipped with GoPros and were able to film the oarfish swimming in shallow water, because it’s pretty rare to spot oarfish in the wild.

Here is another video from another tourist (with an unfortunate soundtrack)

These oarfish aren’t particularly large, about 10 feet long, when you consider they can grow up to 36 feet. And while it is pretty amazing to watch them swim, especially the beautiful undulations that travel down their dorsal fin, this isn’t normal behavior for these fish. Unfortunately, these two are dying. I can’t say why they are dying or why they came to shore, but a search of you tube for oarfish in english and spanish (“Pez Remo”) brings up several movies of oarfish stranded on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez. Even this one which looks to me like it could be a tiny baby oarfish?! (Biologists, help me out here, I would love to know if it is actually a baby oarfish cause this might be the only time I SQUEE at the sight of an oarfish!) The Sea of Cortez a highly productive fishery, which sounds to me like a great place to be a vertically NOMing oarfish. This body of water is also very deep with a narrow continental shelf, which could explain why depth-loving oarfish (they’ve been observed by ROV’s as far down as 500 m) accidentally end up on the beach sometimes instead of the deep.

I’d also like to give a shoutout to Sarah at Un-Cruise Adventures for the links to the oarfish video, she arranged with the crew of the ship to post them online. You can read more about the oarfish encounter here at the Un-Cruise cruise blog http://www.un-cruise.com/blog-mysteries-deep-031214

 

Kim Martini (77 Posts)

Kim is a Physical Oceanographer at the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2010. Her goal in life is to throw expensive s**t in the ocean. When not at sea, she uses observations from moored, satellite and land-based instruments to understand the pathways that wind and tidal energy take from large (internal tides) to small scales (turbulence).





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