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OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The carcass of a 14-foot oarfish that washed ashore in Oceanside was cut into sections and taken away by scientists for examination.

Oarfish Washes Up in Oceanside

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Oceanside police responding to Friday’s discovery contacted SeaWorld, the Scripps Research Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which carted the carcass off.

It was the second rare find in a week. Last week, an 18-foot oarfish was found dead off Catalina Island.

Rick Feeney, ichthyology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told The Times last week that giant oarfish — the world’s largest bony fish — only “wash up occasionally” because they’re typically in deep, open ocean.

When oarfish come closer to shore, Feeney said, it may be a sign of distress. They could be starving, disoriented or in shallower water because of a storm.

“They’re usually in the deep ocean, away from land,” Feeney said.

Giant oarfish get up to about 27 feet maximum, he said, adding that stories of them reaching 50 or more feet haven’t been verified.


OCEANSIDE, Calif. — It’s been the week of the oarfish along the Southern California coast.

A 14-foot oarfish carcass was discovered Friday by a snorkeler off the beach in Oceanside. Earlier in the week, an 18-foot oarfish was found dead off Catalina Island.

The oarfish is the world’s largest bony fish and lives mostly at great depths. Because of its size and menacing appearance, the oarfish may be the source of tales of sea serpents.


An 18-foot oarfish was discovered off Toyon Bay on Catalina Island Sunday. (credit: Catalina Island Marine Institute)

Oceanside police responding to Friday’s discovery contacted SeaWorld, the Scripps Research Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Employees from NOAA removed the carcass for possible study.

Rick Feeney, ichthyology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, told The Times earlier this week the giant oarfish only “wash up occasionally” because they’re typically in deep open ocean.

When oarfish come closer to shore, Feeney said it may be a sign of distress. They could be starving, disoriented or landed in shallower water because of a storm.

“They’re usually in the deep ocean, away from land,” Feeney said.

Giant oarfish get up to about 27 feet maximum, he said, adding that stories of them reaching 50 or more feet haven’t been verified.

A 12-foot oarfish washed ashore in Malibu in 2010, but it was a much smaller — and thinner — variety with its silvery scales and a scarlet red dorsal fin.


sea monsterLos Angeles (CNN) — For the second time this week, Southern California has seen a rare sea beast washed ashore, far from home waters.

This time, it’s a saber-toothed whale, better known to live in deep Alaskan waters than in the warm surf of tourist-choked Venice Beach in Los Angeles where it stranded Wednesday.

In an extraordinary way even for scientists, the carcass of the nearly 15-foot and 2,000-pound whale was intact — except for a couple of fresh bite marks from sharks. The whale, a female, apparently was barely alive when it came ashore — a highly unusual sight because beached whales are often badly decomposed or badly eaten by marine life, a local biologist said.

“It was really humbling and sad to see such a majestic creature stranded this way,” said Heather Doyle, director of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. She rushed down the beach on her bicycle to witness the rarely-seen animal after staff naturalist Brittany Corona happened upon a crowd surrounding the whale on the sand.

Such a sighting of the whale up close in California “is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she added.

Giant eyeball washes up on beach

Just three days earlier, another rarely observed species — a sea-serpent-like animal called an oarfish — was discovered dead at Catalina Island off the Los Angeles coast.

Oarfish hide in the deep ocean. The one found in the island’s Toyon Bay was so big — 18 feet long — that it required 15 people to hold it chest-high in a trophy photo taken by the Catalina Island Marine Institute.

“They’re so rare and unusual looking,” Jim Dines of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles said of the oarfish and the saber-toothed whale. “They are like sea monsters, and people really pick up on that.”

Are their deaths freak events prompted by global warming?

“I think it’s just really a coincidence,” Dines said. “It’s too early to tell. If we were to see a whole bunch of these animal strandings, that would give more evidence of something going on.”

Added marine biologist Jose Bacallao of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium: “I’m not going to speculate on any wackiness, but I will say you have years of temperature changes and we have had warmer waters…. I’m not saying the water temperature brought that whale or the oarfish here, but it’s still a pretty amazing sight to see.”

Dine is also a mammalogist who performed a necropsy on the whale shortly after it was found Wednesday. His examination showed no signs of trauma such as being hit by a ship and no signs of disease or parasites, Dine said.

The female whale also didn’t have any food in her stomach — aside from ingested plastic or nylon that wasn’t enough to kill her, Dine said.

The carcass did show two or three fresh wounds from cookie-cutter sharks, whose name comes from how their bites leave a round wound that cuts through skin, blubber and muscle, Dines said. But those bites weren’t mortal wounds, he said. In fact, the whale had several dozen scars from such bites, which are common in the species, he added.

Dines is waiting on testing results of tissue samples to determine a cause of death.

Though the animal’s death is unfortunate, scientists such as Dines are excited about its discovery because so little is known about the deep-water animal that lives in the north Pacific. Its strandings typically occur in Alaska or Japan. Its last stranding in southern California was 15 years ago, Dines said.

“There is some speculation that they do migrate in the winter, but it’s not certain how far (south) they go,” Dines said.

It’s the adult male whale that grows sabertooth-like teeth, used for combat against other males for dominance in breeding, Dines said. The females don’t grow the saberteeth. The species is also known as the Stejneger’s beaked whale. As a whole, the front of the species’ face resembles a goose beak, Dines said.

“It’s creating a lot of excitement in the media and the public, but the scientists are just as excited about this because it’s a rare opportunity to study the natural history of these kinds of animals that are so rarely observed, even by marine specialists,” Dines said.

Discovery makes a splash: The rarest whale

Though the plastic found in the whale’s stomach didn’t cause its death, the material’s presence in marine life is a growing concern.

“Certainly, pollution of plastics in the ocean is a huge concern and causes I don’t know the number of deaths of marine animals,” Dines said.

The discovery of the two animals also occured as Manhattan Beach paddle-boarder Mark Durand captured on his helmet camera a video of an 8-foot great white shark swimming underneath him and grazing his board this week.

The series of events has heightened public interest in what lurks within Los Angeles’ coastal waters, scientists said in interviews Thursday.

What now becomes of the two magnificent sea monsters?

Dines took several tissue samples of the whale, and its skeleton will be placed in the museum’s collection of 4,000 marine specimens, used for research and exhibition, he said. The 15-foot-long whale is just a little bit short of the 18 feet common for females in the species.

As for the oarfish, its 18-foot length was too big for one freezer, so scientists cut it up into small pieces and froze them, said Jeff Chace, program director of Catalina Island Marine Institute.

Researchers will later boil off the flesh and reconstruct the skeleton, using photographs taken during the dissection of the deep-sea serpent.

SAN DIEGO – A 16-year-old fisherman witnessed a great white shark kill a seal and then circle his fishing boat off the coast of La Jolla this week.

shark-webCharlie Saraspe showed Fox 5  video Wednesday taken with his cellphone of the shark thrashing his tail and swimming next to his boat.

“He rubbed up against my boat and I was thinking, ‘This shark is nearly as big as my boat!'” said Saraspe. “I could have pet him. It was like he wanted me to pet him.”

Saraspe said he was fishing for yellow tail about 2 miles off the coast of Wind and Sea Beach when he encountered the shark.

AVALON, Calif. — An afternoon snorkel off Catalina Island brought a local instructor face-to-face with the half-dollar-sized eyes of an 18-foot sea creature on Sunday.


An 18-foot oarfish was discovered off Toyon Bay on Catalina Island Sunday. (credit: Catalina Island Marine Institute)

Marine science instructor Jasmine Santana was shocked to confront the rare oarfish in the waters of the island’s Toyon Bay, about 2 miles from Avalon and 22 miles off the Port of Los Angeles.

It was the “discovery of a lifetime,” according to a news release issued by the Catalina Island Marine Institute, for which Santana is an instructor.

The snake-like fish was found late Sunday afternoon dead but nearly completely intact and appeared to have died from natural causes, according to the release.

“It took 15 or 20 of us to pick it up,” said Jeff Chace, a program director with CIMI, which runs a camp out of Toyon Bay that teaches children to snorkel, kayak and hike.


The oarfish’s head shown after it was brought ashore. (credit: CIMI)

Instructors from CIMI were unloading gear from a trip to Santa Barbara Island when they spotted Santa pulling the oarfish ashore.

“The craziest thing we saw during our two day-journey at sea happened when we got home.  These islands never cease to amaze,” instructor Connor Gallagher said, according to the news release.

The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is a deep-water pelagic fish — the longest bony fish in the world, Chace said. It’s very rare to see so close to shore, he said.

“It’s one of these rare weird things you see in Southern California,” Chace said.

The fish is believed to dive more than 3,000 feet, and in part because of the deepwater habits, little is known about them, Chace said.

Children at the camp and the self-professed “science nerd” employees were able to get a good look at the fish, which had been pulled up onto the beach at Toyon Bay, Chace said.

Now CIMI is trying to figure out what to do with the silverly fish’s body. The program has been in touch with a  “fish guru” at UC Santa Barbara and with the Museum of Natural History in LA, Chace said.

“We can’t even really fit it into our freezer,” he said.

The scientists may decide to bury the carcass and let it decompose under the sand. In the end, they’d have an 18-foot long skeleton to show for their unexpected discovery.

Read more at KTLA 5

shark wrestlerNANTUCKET, Mass. — (CNN) — Reeling in bluefish or bass just doesn’t excite Elliot Sudal anymore. He prefers wrestling fish with a little more teeth.

The 24-year-old tussled with a shark over the weekend and has since become the most famous man from Nantucket outside a limerick.

“I’ve been a fisherman my whole life. It’s almost like a drug — I got used to catching bigger and bigger fish,” Sudal said.

On Sunday, Sudal and his cousins were catching bluefish and noticed one had lost half its body.

“I get back half a bluefish. It’s got the stereotypical shark bite out of it,” he said.

So they threw it back in the water, hoping to lure the predator back. Within a minute, the shark came back to finish its meal.

That’s when Sudal jumped into the water to grab a wrestling partner.

“That particular shark took about 45 minutes to get in,” he said. “It was probably 7 feet long and 200 pounds.”

When Sudal finally got the shark onto the beach, he kept it for about a minute and posed for some photos before sending it back into the ocean.

“I always let them go. I’m not trying to hurt the sharks,” he said.

Sudal estimates he’s caught more than 100 sharks in the past eight months.

But most of those were in Florida, where Sudal would catch and release as many as five sharks a day. Occasionally, he might see his name in the local newspaper there.

But when you move to Nantucket and start wrestling sharks on the beach, people take notice.

“I got that really cool picture of it. My boss said you should send that to the newspaper here,” he said.

Since then, he’s received about 100 calls a day and messages from women he’s never met.

But Sudal has also received a wave of criticism over his captures, including concerns about injuries to the shark.

Sudal said he has a degree in environmental science and supports conservation efforts.

“I just played around with this guy,” he said. “I love the feeling — it’s like a connection with the animal.”

He said he’ll continue with his favorite hobby.

And if a real-life Sharknado ever struck, Sudal will be ready.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A group of fishermen may have broken a world record when they reeled in a huge shark caught off the coast of Huntington Beach.

Jason Johnston, from Mesquite, Texas, chartered a boat out of Huntington Beach on Monday. His group hooked a massive shortfin mako shark about 15 miles offshore.

The shark was 12 feet long, 8 feet in girth and weighs more than 1,300 pounds, according to the fishermen’s estimates.

It took more than two hours and a quarter-mile of line to reel in the shark, Johnston said.

“It’s unreal. This thing is definitely a killing machine,” Johnston said. “Any wrong step and I could have went out of the boat and to the bottom of the ocean,” he said.

The shark was being taken to a weigh yard in Gardena to be certified by a weigh master. The fishermen plan to donate it to a research organization for study.

As they waited for news on their possible world record, the fishermen planned to head out again on Tuesday for another day of fishing.