A bizarre and rarely seen sea creature that washed ashore in Gustavus, Alaska, was first thought to be a halibut by the government worker who spotted it.
Jeff Jarvis of the Department of Transportation was checking out the dock when he made the odd discovery Thursday in the town that serves as the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
“He was checking the dock and he noticed what he thought was a halibut,” Craig Murdoch, a National Park Service fisheries biologist, told Alaska Dispatch News. “He went and checked it out, and it was a fish he had never seen before.”
Turns out, the sea creature was a ragfish, the second one to have washed ashore in the same area within six months. A 78-inch ragfish washed up in Bartlett Cove in July. This one measured 65 inches, and like the other was a female full of eggs.
Long-time Gustavus resident and naturalist Greg Streveler told Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve that these are the only observations of the sea creatures he is aware of in 40 years.
Adult ragfish typically inhabit deep water up to 4,000 feet, feature flesh that is like squid and gets its name because of its limpness, the result of a bone structure that is mostly cartilage.
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There have not been many observations of ragfish, so it is hard to know the significance of two sightings in the same area within six months of each other, Murdoch said…
Having two sightings occur within a short period in the same area “raises questions,” Murdoch said.
Ragfish are native to waters of Alaska, so this is not likely a case of a southern fish being pushed north by warm waters, he said. It could be a byproduct of a bigger population, or it could be a product of some changes in the ocean, or it could be tied to whatever may be killing off murres in the Gulf of Alaska, he said. Or it could be just a matter of luck and coincidence, he said.