Sightings of rare oarfish in Japan raise fears of earthquake and tsunami


“It could be that global warming might have an impact on the appearance of oarfish or a reason we’re just not aware of.”

The myth of oarfish as harbinger of destruction gained some traction after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which killed more than 20,000 people. At least a dozen oarfish had washed up onto Japan’s coastline in the year prior to the disaster, according to Kyodo News.

While he doubted the theory’s validity, Saiba said one possible scientific explanation could be that subtle changes in the Earth’s crust at the bottom of the sea ahead of an earthquake “might cause the current to stir and push creatures at the bottom to the surface.”

But Osamu Inamura, director of Uozu Aquarium, had a more scientific theory about the Toyama Bay sighting — that oarfish are following the movement of their food supply, a kind of a micro shrimp.

“When their shrimp supply rises toward plankton during the daytime, the oarfish may sometimes follow and get caught in fishermen’s nets,” Inamura said.



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