Garry Goodyear has come across some odd species in his time as a deep-sea fisherman, but nothing like this. The Canadian fisherman says he was baffled by a strange creature that was hauled on board in his net.
Goodyear had spent the day fishing for turbot in north Bonavista Bay, off the coast of Newfoundland, when the crew began hauling up the net from about 800 meters below.
But when their catch came into sight, Goodyear was spooked by the weird meter-long fish in his net.
He told CBC, “I said, ‘Good God! What in the heck was that? … I’ve never seen nothing like that before!’”
The huge fish was shaped almost like a sucker fish, with wing-like fins and a snout shaped like a squid’s head. It stared at them with huge neon-green eyes.
“I thought it was a platypus, because he had that big snout on it,” Goodyear said. “It looked like he had wings, and his nose was, it was almost like rubber. I guess it was like cartilage.”
The crew didn’t know what to do with the unique catch. Baffled, they hauled it aboard and found it was dead.
“I brought it into the fish plant, to the wharf where we offloaded, and nobody in there knew—haven’t seen it before,” he said.
So, Goodyear snapped some pictures and posted about it on Facebook.
“What a weird looking fish we pulled fr[om] the depths on our turbot trip,” he wrote. “Does anybody know what it is?”
Commenters were baffled, too, guessing that it could be a goblin shark or a mature flying fish. One commenter even joked that it must be a creature from Chernobyl.
It was, however, soon identified as a long-nosed chimaera, a rare venomous deep-sea fish that is also known as a “spookfish.” The name “chimera” alludes to a mythical Greek monster—an apt comparison considering its eerie appearance.
“We didn’t know it had a spine with venom in it,” Goodyear said. “It was just another fish to us … and we were handling that with bare hands!”
On average, the long-nosed chimaera, or spookfish, lives 2,600 meters below the surface, but can also be found in the 200-to-1,000-meter range.
It is a cousin to sharks and skates, and like its cousins, it lacks a skeleton made of bone; the fish’s body is structured with cartilage, as Goodyear had guessed.
According to Carolyn Miri, a marine biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s rare to spot one, and even more so in this area.
“It is rarely seen by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” she said. “Because of their deepwater habitats … we actually don’t know very much about their biology, their life history and their behavior.”
This is one catch Goodyear will never forget. However, he says he’s seen enough oddities for the time being.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t want to see much more!” he said.
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