Fishermen Fear Potential Earthquake After Catching Huge Oarfish

by Craig Garrett
Dead Oarfish 'Sea Serpent' washes ashore on a beach in Mexico - stock photo

After landing an elusive oarfish that’s said to be a harbinger of seismic upheaval, Mexican fishermen have gone viral. The video of the purported oceanic ill omen has more than 200,000 views on Twitter. Twitter users voiced concerns about a possible seismic calamity, The New York Post reports.

The oarfish is one of the world’s largest bony fish, reaching lengths of up to 56 feet. This particular specimen was landed last month off the coast of Sinaloa in Mexico. The accompanying footage shows the silver creature, which has a fiery orange head tassel and dorsal fin running along its whole body, struggling to breathe as it flails around in the back of a pickup truck. The people who caught it are heard laughing.

The interesting fish is rarely a sighted creature that dwells at depths of 656 to 3200 feet below the surface of the water. Many people were shocked that they had managed to capture it. Many users made comments about an impending earthquake based on the oarfish sighting. “Earthquake is coming,” declared one harbinger of doom. Another Twitter user was even less hopeful. “We are all going to die!,” they tweeted. “You don’t have to believe me, but in Chile that fish is a sign of a bad omen,” said another user.

Many see the oarfish as a harbinger of doom

Other Twitter users were concerned about the livihood of the rare oarfish. “Why don’t they return it to the water, the poor animal is struggling to breathe,” tweeted one user. “Then they complain when they have a huge earthquake.” In Japanese mythology, oarfish are signs of earthquakes and other disasters. Tall and slender, these plankton-eaters are known to come ashore on their own when they sense danger approaching.

During the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, these fears were especially relevant as many of the sea creatures had washed ashore in the years leading up to it. Since then, debunkers have tried to end the misconception.

Hiroyuki Motomura, a professor of ichthyology at Kagoshima University, weighed in on the myth. “The link to reports of seismic activity goes back many, many years, but there is no scientific evidence of a connection, so I don’t think people need to worry,” explained Motomura. “I believe these fish tend to rise to the surface when their physical condition is poor, rising on water currents, which is why they are so often dead when they are found.”

The oarfish is a pelagic lampriform fish belonging to the little family Regalecidae. The oarfish family comprises three species in two genera. It can be found from temperate ocean zones to tropical seas. One of these, the huge oarfish, reaches lengths of up to 26 feet. The name “oarfish” is thought to be derived from either its extremely compressed and elongated bodies or the myth that the fish “row” themselves through water with their pelvic fins. Oarfish are rarely trapped alive and their meat is not well regarded for eating due to its gelatinous texture.