The Oarfish Found by Mountain & Sea Adventures at Catalina Island

Published : Monday, June 22, 2015 | 6:07 PM

According to the Mountain & Sea Adventures (MSA) staff, which runs outdoor educational programs on Catalina Island, it was just another beautiful day at their premier location of Emerald Bay. The instructors and campers were on the water in kayaks, having just completed a detailed field lecture on local sea birds and a short orientation on how to operate a paddle. It was another beautiful day at MSA and the students and staff were all happy campers.

The Story of the Discovery at Sandy Beach

The students were being led on a kayaking tour through the incredible natural beauties within Emerald Bay. First they paddle out to a small island and rocky reef where they can see many beautiful sights such as rare sea birds resting, fishing and nesting. Next, near by are a few sandy beaches that are great places to land the boats and begin doing field research activities before continuing on their explorations.

Usually these small sandy beaches inside Emerald Bay are full of nothing more than gulls and pelicans. But the students were immediately shocked when they discovered something else, something very different lying in the sand that day.

It looked like a sea monster, but the campers and MSA staff soon realized they had in fact just stumbled upon an extremely rare sea creature from the deep. Oarfish live their entire lives at the oceanic mesopelagic zone, which is a portion of the ocean that is between 600 to over 3,000 feet bellow the ocean’s surface. Usually the ones that float to surface after dying of old age are consumed by sea birds and other fish, long before reaching shore. The extremely good condition the oarfish at Emerald Bay was found in was just as rare as seeing the sea-serpent-like fish to begin with. A real find by the MSA staff and a great experience for our campers!

Because they are not well known for coming to surface there has not been sufficient scientific research to fully understand this mystery fish from the abyss. MSA’s founding President and CEO, Annie MacAulay, said she had never seen an oarfish in the 20+ years she has resided on the island.

On June 1st long time MSA instructor and counselor, Miranda Prado, was among the first of the crew to discover the oarfish on the empty sandy beach adjacent to the campus at Emerald Bay, Catalina Island. She quickly reported it to the directors, biologists and other staff members whom are experts in the field of marine biology, and among them Annie MacAulay quickly came to help verify and confirm the event.

About The Oarfish

The oarfish was approximately 15 feet long, and according to recent research was a female and had extra long ovaries. Oarfish have been known to grow over 20 feet in length. There was no apparent reason for the death of the fish washed onshore Emerald Bay. Oarfish have only been known to come out from the depths during old age or when there is some sort of disturbance from the depths, such as volcanic or seismic activity. Annie MacAulay informed news reporters that it is for this reason that the Japanese considered the sighting of oarfish washing ashore to be an omen predicting an earthquake.

The MSA staff was at the right place at the right time, because scientists state the oarfish was only in such good condition due to the fact that it must have washed up on the beach only briefly before it was found.

Where is the oarfish now?

Such a well-preserved specimen is very valuable for scientists researching this fish. Many vital various parts were immediately preserved and were sent to be studied by Assistant professor of biological science Misty Paig-Ttan and her students at the California State University, Fullerton.

This experience may seem extraordinary, but life at camp is anything but ordinary. Recently campers have had the opportunity to witness first hand many rare experiences. Warm currents brought the aquarium at emerald bay a new puffer fish, and students have had many sightings of whales, dolphins, cormorant, and the endless plethora of life belonging to the sea.

Environmental preservation efforts

Officially the Island of Santa Catalina belongs to a private conservation, which aims to preserve the natural state of the island and continue ongoing surveys and research. Mountain and Sea Adventures helps the Catalina Island Conservancy achieve their aims by providing daily field research in and around their premiere location at Emerald Bay, Catalina Island. Schools and other groups that participant in MSA’s program have the unique opportunity to be a part of the ongoing field research and expose their students to the exciting world of natural science

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