An Oarfish was found ashore in Barangay Rojales, Carmen, Agusan del Norte, on February 15.
Photo: Elesa Rosé Jane Allocod

Philippines: In the know: Can Oarfish predict earthquakes?
By Nicko Tubo, 20th February 2017;

Days before and after the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that devastated Surigao City and its nearby provinces, multiple sightings of giant Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) in Mindanao were reported.

On February 8, two days before the earthquake that killed eight people and injured more than 200, a 10-foot long Oarfish was found ashore in Carmen, Agusan del Norte, which is located approximately 168 kilometers away from Surigao City.

Since the first sighting, five more Oarfish were found ashore off Mindanao’s northern coast. The latest sighting was last February 18, when a 20-foot Oarfish was found in Barangay Gusa, Cagayan de Oro City. The sea creature was still alive when found by the residents, but it died later.

The sightings have sparked debates and discussions on social media, on whether the sea creature can predict earthquakes.

But do Oarfish have the ability to predict earthquakes?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Oarfish are the longest bony fish in the sea, growing to 50 feet or more in length.

Oarfish, commonly mistaken as sea serpents, are rare but can be found in areas with tropical and temperate waters like the Philippines. The creature lives near the sea bottom at about 3,000 feet.

NOAA said that not much is known about the habits and life of Oarfish, but most of them come to the surface when injured or dying.

An article posted in National Geographic website said that Oarfish are known in Japan as the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace.” According to folklore, if many of the fish wash up, an earthquake is coming.

Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, a scientist who studies earthquakes, said in an article posted on Japan Times that “deep-sea fish living near the sea bottom are more sensitive to the movements of active faults than those near the surface of the sea.”

In a 2010 report of the Daily Telegraph, the appearance of more than a dozen of Oarfish in Japan was followed by destructive earthquakes in Chile, Haiti, and southern Taiwan.

“In ancient times, Japanese people believed that fish warned of coming earthquakes, particularly catfish,” Hiroshi Tajihi, deputy director of the Kobe Earthquake Centre, said in the same report of the Daily Telegraph.

Tajihi, however, said there is no scientific relationship between the sightings and an earthquake.

“These are just old superstitions,” he said.

Rachel Grant, a lecturer in animal biology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said in an article posted on the Independent news website in October 2013 that the Japanese traditional belief might be true.

“It’s theoretically possible because when an earthquake occurs, there can be a build-up of pressure in the rocks which can lead to electrostatic charges that cause electrically-charged ions to be released into the water,” said Grant.

Grant, however, said that Oarfish sightings can also be caused by other factors not connected with earthquakes.

“It may be due to seismic activity or it may be due to other factors unconnected with earthquakes, such as infrasound caused by underwater activities, such as military submarines, or pollution,” she said.

Experts have different perspectives, but as far as seismologists are concerned, more studies are needed to prove that Oarfish can predict earthquakes.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also said there are no scientific instruments that can predict when an earthquake will occur.

Source: Sun.Star

Photos: Elesa Rosé Jane Allocod Facebook

Philippines: Another Oarfish washes up in the Philippines
By Sarah Keartes, 19th February 2017;

As residents in the Philippines recover from a recent powerful geological shakeup, some are turning to the sea for warning signs of what’s to come. A ten-foot (3.04m) Oarfish was found in Carmen in the province of Agusan Del Norte days before the quake, and less than a week later, another specimen was found by local fishermen. Could it be that these ‘sea serpents’ are seismic harbingers?

Oarfishes (typically in the genus Regalecus) tend to stick to deep water – up to 1,640 feet (500 metres) down – so it’s no surprise that each beaching event draws so much attention. Their strange appearance, from streamlined bodies to spiny fins, has also made them the perfect characters for lore and myth: in Japan, for example, the animals are known as “ messengers from the sea god’s palace”, and they’ve long been considered a bad earthquake omen.

So do these recent strandings corroborate such traditional beliefs? There could be some scientific basis here, but it’s also important to note that we don’t know much about the lives and ecology of these enigmatic creatures.

In an interview with the Japan Times, seismologist Kiyoshi Wadatsumi notes that deep-sea fish “are more sensitive to the movements of active faults than those near the surface of the sea” – so it’s possible that Oarfish and their deep-dwelling kin respond to tremors by heading top-side, where they eventually strand in shallow water.

But there are alternative explanations as well. Some speculate that the relationship between Oarfish and earthquakes has a middleman. Changing currents during storms and earthquakes may temporarily shift the distribution of Oarfish prey like plankton, crustaceans and squid, which might drive the rarely seen fish to the shallows.

Others suspect the connection is less complicated: since these animals are sensitive to stress, it’s possible they are easily damaged during big swells.

Whatever the cause, every Oarfish sighting is an interesting one, and the Philippines has seen several giants in recent years. In 2016, a 12-foot (4m) behemoth washed up in the province of Albay. That fish had a flesh wound on its head, and no earthquake was detected following the stranding.

Quake-prone California has become something of a hotspot, too. In 2013, scientists found an 18-footer (5.4m) on the shores of Catalina Island, and several months after that, two living Oarfish were seen in very shallow waters off the coast of Baja. The following year, this 14-foot Oarfish swam past Oceanside in seemingly good condition:

Could any of these California sightings have something to do with the state’s various fault lines? It’s an interesting possibility, but we can’t say with certainty just yet. As with the strandings of whales and other marine creatures, it’s likely that various factors play a part.

Source: EarthTouch

Barramundi (Lates calcarifer)
Chek Jawa, 7th May 2016

This Barramundi was one of many fishes found dead in a driftnet that was illegally laid across the lagoon at Chek Jawa.

Many of the offshore fish farms in the Straits of Johor raise Barramundi for human consumption, so this individual could have been a farmed fish that managed to escape, instead of being of wild origin.

More photos of the Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) that was recently found at Cagayan de Oro.

Source: Carol Nabale Cañete Facebook