The fish is called 'Ryugu no tsukai' in Japanese, meaning 'messenger from the palace of the dragon king'
Giant deep-water fish found in Toyama prefecture
Friday, February 01, 2019, 00:30 (GMT + 9)
An oarfish measuring nearly four metres was found this week tangled in a fishing net off Imizu port, in the north-coast prefecture of Toyama.
The fish, that lives in deep sea waters, was found already dead, and was taken to the Uozu Aquarium to be studied.
With this, three oarfish have been caught in Toyama Bay this month, as two slender oarfish were also found on January 19 in waters off Imizu and Namerikawa.
The oarfish, characterised by long silver bodies and red fins, usually inhabit deep waters, and the fish are rarely seen from the surface, although a legend says that when oarfish rise to shallow waters, disaster is near.
This fish is 394.8 centimetres long, the fourth longest found in Toyama Prefecture. According to the aquarium, 20 slender oarfish have been found in Toyama Bay since the first confirmed sighting there in 2009.
"[Finding several in a row] is said to be the forerunner of an earthquake or to be influenced by ocean temperatures, but research is scarce and we don't know the cause," said Satoshi Kusama from Uozu Aquarium.
The fish is called "Ryugu no tsukai" in Japanese, meaning "messenger from the palace of the dragon king." According to tradition, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves ahead of an impending earthquake. That connects with scientific theories that bottom-dwelling fish may be susceptible to movements in seismic fault lines and act in uncharacteristic ways before an earthquake.
Hiroyuki Motomura, a professor of ichthyology at Kagoshima University, has a different explanation for the recent discovery.
“I have around 20 specimens of this fish in my collection so it’s not a very rare species, but 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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
According to the prefecture's Fisheries Research Institute, the water temperature on the surface of Toyama Bay this month is several degrees higher than usual, while temperatures at a depth of about 200 to 300 meters are slightly below average.
The found fish will be exhibited on February 2 and 3 at the aquarium.