A mysterious, headless 7-foot-long fish brought in on a fishing trip that took place off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, has scientists baffled as to what exactly it is.
Fishing photographer Jon Schwartz on his blog BluewaterJon posted photos of the thin, shiny, silver fish with a “serpent-like body” last week. Schwartz explained that the fish was brought in decapitated when it was seen floating in the water by charter boat Captain Dale Leverone.
“I thought it was a car bumper, but then I remembered they don’t float!” Leverone’s son and first mate Jack said according to Schwartz.
Sending photos to Schwartz, Jack explained that it was still bleeding — he said its head had been “bitten off by a shark” — when they pulled it into the boat.
Capt. Leverone speculated that it could be an oarfish.
“I was thrilled with the notion that I might know someone who has seen an oarfish up close. Now that’s a real celebrity!” Schwartz wrote.
But it still was only speculation that it was the rare breed of fish. Schwartz contacted fishing expert Jim Rizzuto to figure out more. Here’s what they considered regarding the mystery fish:
Jim said he thought the absence of a red dorsal fin would mean it wasn’t an oarfish. Jim thought it might be a type of cutlass fish; possibly a Hawaiian ridge scabbardfish, but without the head, it was going to be hard to get a positive ID.
Rizzuto told me that they were rare enough that he didn’t have “a specific remembrance of other sightings and I have no memory of having seen one in the market”. To me that’s significant because to my knowledge, nearly everyone in Hawaii contacts Jim when they catch anything big or unusual, and it’s been that way for many decades.
Schwartz then contacted NOAA biologists who said it might be a King of Salmon. They also doubted it was a Hawaiian ridge scabbardfish due to its size.
For what it’s worth in support of the oarfish theory, Schwartz wrote that he contacted the Leverones later because they had said they planned to eat the fish. Asking them for pictures of the fillets, they told him it had become gelatinous in the refrigerator, so they didn’t end up eating it. This gelatinous consistency of the flesh, Schwartz said was consistent with some other literature he had read about the oarfish.
For now, the mystery is still out, but he wrote that NOAA said it would send image to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the quest to identify the creature.