Oarfish catch in Mexico signals looming disaster in Japanese lore

This fish allegedly puts the “scale” in “Richter scale”.

The great white shark isn’t the only harbinger of aquatic doom: Fishermen in Mexico are going viral after landing an elusive denizen of the deep that’s rumoured to be a sign of impending earthquakes, the New York Post reports.

A video of the alleged oceanic bad omen currently boasts more than 200,000 views on Twitter as viewers worry about a possible seismic catastrophe.

The oarfish — which is the world’s largest bony fish, capable of growing to 56-feet long — was landed last month off the coast of Sinaloa, Mexico, Jam Press reported.

Accompanying footage shows the silvery critter, which boasts a fiery orange head tassel and dorsal fin traversing its entire long body, gasping and flailing about in the bed of a pick-up truck as its captors laugh.

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Viewers were amazed that they managed to catch the serpentine beast, which is seldom seen as it resides at depths of between 200m and 1km below the ocean’s surface. However, many commented that the oarfish sighting meant that an earthquake was on the horizon.

“Earthquake is coming,” declared one doomsayer, while another wrote, “We are all going to die!”

“You don’t have to believe me, but in Chile that fish is a sign of a bad omen,” said one armchair apocalypticist.

“Why don’t they return it to the water, the poor animal is struggling to breathe,” asked a concerned citizen. “Then they complain when they have a huge earthquake.”

This seismic superstition is based on Japanese mythology, in which oarfish are seen as symbols of earthquakes and other catastrophes. According to Japanese lore, the slender plankton eater will purposely rise to the surface and beach themselves whenever they believe trouble’s on the way.

These fears were exacerbated during the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, as dozens of the pelagic beasts had washed ashore in the two years leading up to the catastrophe, Jam Press reported.

Experts have since sought to dispel the myth. “The link to reports of seismic activity goes back many, many years, but there is no scientific evidence of a connection, so I don’t think people need to worry,” explained Hiroyuki Motomura, a professor of ichthyology at Kagoshima University.

“I believe these fish tend to rise to the surface when their physical condition is poor, rising on water currents, which is why they are so often dead when they are found.”

This article was originally published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission

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