Jacob Thompson and the oarfish on a beach in Baja. Jacob Thompson and the oarfish on a beach in Baja.

Young fishermen find and rescue a rare oarfish on Baja beach

The young specimen measured about eight feet long and weighed between five and ten pounds

Two young tourists rescued a rare fish from a beach on the eastern coast of Baja California Sur a few weeks ago.

The encounter happened when Jacob Thompson, 17, and his brother Noah Thompson, 24, of Austin, Texas, were riding ATVs on a beach near Rancho Leonero Resort, getting ready to go out fly-fishing.

When the brothers saw a silver object that had washed up on the beach, Jacob Thompson “knew exactly what it was, and he was thrilled,” his brother told USA Today.

Jacob, who has been interested in fish since he was a child, had correctly identified it as an oarfish, a deep-sea fish that can grow up to 36 feet long and is rarely seen near the surface.

“When I was young I’d always seen pictures of these things and dreamed of being able to hold one,” Jacob said. “Obviously I couldn’t believe it at first. I was running up to this thing. I’d seen orange on him and I just lost it. I turned around and started screaming at my brother to come look at this thing.”

The fish found by the Thompson brothers was a juvenile, about eight feet long and weighing between 5 and 10 pounds.

To revive the weakened animal, Jacob took it into the water and began pulling it backwards to fill its gills with water. After the fish was able to hold itself upright, the brothers watched it swim away and disappear into the ocean.

John Ireland, owner of the Rancho Leonero Resort, told USA Today that in his 40 years in Baja California Sur he had never heard of an oarfish sighting.

In Japan, sightings of the rarely-seen fish are believed to be a sign of coming earthquakes, and several oarfish were reported to have washed up on Japanese beaches in the year before the 2011 quake in Fukushima.

Although most scientists have dismissed that belief, California was hit by two significant earthquakes just a few weeks after the Thompson brothers found the oarfish.

Source: USA Today (en), Debate (sp), Milenio (sp)

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