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Two oarfish wash up in Japan

These ultra-rare oarfish have been washing up on shores in Japan, and people are afraid they signal an imminent earthquake. Photo: Instagram/Uozu Aquarium


The Inertia

Recent sightings of a rare species of fish, believed to be a harbinger of earthquakes and tsunamis, have caused quite a stir in Japan–a country that’s still reeling from the devastating Fukushima quake of 2011.

Last week, two oarfish, a rare species of über long fish that makes its home at ocean depths of around 3,300 feet, were discovered in Japan’s Toyama prefecture. One that measured about 10.5-feet washed ashore. And the other, about 13 feet, was tangled in a fishing net.

In Japan, the act of oarfish beaching themselves has long been thought to signal an imminent quake. According to CNN, the traditional Japanese term for the fish roughly translates to, “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace.”

Scientists, however, dispute the myth although they do concede that geological changes could be forcing the fish closer to the surface.

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“There is no scientific evidence at all for the theory that oarfish appear around big quakes. But we cannot 100 percent deny the possibility,” Uozu Aquarium keeper Kazusa Saiba told CNN. Saiba said that changes in the Earth’s crust “might cause the current to stir and push creatures at the bottom to the surface.”

Osamu Inamura, the director of the Uozu Aquarium, told CNN that the explanation was more straightforward and is a matter of the fish chasing their food source, a species of tiny shrimp, up the water column during daylight hours.

According to reports, seven of the ultra-rare oarfish have been spotted this season.

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