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

Photos: Elesa Rosé Jane Allocod Facebook

Philippines: Mysterious ‘Sea Serpent’ Oarfish Resurfaces
Pictures of an Oarfish washed ashore in the Philippines remind us how little we know about this elusive creature.
By Rachel Brown, 17th February 2017;

In another instance of a rare and poorly understood phenomenon, several beachgoers pulled a deceased Oarfish from the sea in Carmen, Agusan Del Norte, Philippines on Wednesday, after fisherman had caught one off the same coast just days before.

Giant Oarfish (Regalecus glesne) were first sighted in 1772 and crop up occasionally in temperate and tropical shallows around the world, usually two or three within a short period of time. Although very little is known about why this happens, some scientists have suggested that the deep-dwelling species—which usually makes its home in the mesopelagic zone 200 to 1,000 meters below the surface—is sometimes pushed ashore by strong currents and buffeting winds.

Although a vast majority of beachside Oarfish sightings end with the fish’s death, it’s unclear whether they’re obeying some biological imperative to seek the surface when dying, or whether the strange circumstances themselves are the cause of death.

At over 30 feet the world’s longest bony fish, Oarfish have all the makings of great drama: their superlative size, surprising beauty, and connection to myth continue to shuffle this creature into the limelight, only for it to swim away again.

Ironically for an animal about which so little is known, it goes by an abundance of names. In Palau, it’s called the rooster fish for the spiny red fins bristling from its head; the Japanese know it as the “Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace” and a herald of earthquakes. The elongated fish, though not a reptile, is thought to be the inspiration for legends of sea serpents found around the world.

Because Oarfish normally live at a depth which humans still struggle to explore, very little research has been done on them. Specimens are few and far between—in addition to the sightings’ rarity, fishermen who haul up Oarfish as unwanted bycatch usually throw them back, unable to sell the “flabby, gooey” meat at market. And when specimens are collected, there’s usually little information gleaned: dead specimens yield scant information in comparison to observing live animals in their natural habitat.

A 2011 video captured by a research ROV in the Gulf of Mexico provides a fascinating glimpse at this habitat. While collecting data about the environmental effects of a deep-sea oil rig, Mark Benfield of the GulfSERPENT Project came across this silver fish undulating like a submerged comet through the view screen.

“The deep sea is home to so many organisms we seldom see, and the more chances we get to get out there with ROVs, the more we will learn,” Benfield told National Geographic in 2013.

The intrigue remains. Is there any correlation, as myth and anecdotal evidence would suggest, between the appearance of Oarfish in shallow waters and the earthquakes that seem to follow? Will studying the Oarfish reveal more about the deep oceans, part of our own planet and yet as distant and unknown as the reaches of space just barely out of our grasp?

It seems we’ll have to wait for the next Oarfish to ripple into view.

Source: National Geographic News

Residents hold the dead Oarfish that was found off the coast of Agusan del Norte on Wednesday, February 15.
Photo: Elesa Rosé Jane Allocod Facebook

Philippines: Another Oarfish found in Agusan del Norte
15th February 2017;

Another Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) was found Wednesday, February 15, in Carmen, Agusan del Norte, a week after fishermen caught a 10-foot long dead sea serpent off the coast of the same town.

Netizen Elesa Jane Allocod posted on her Facebook account photos of the giant sea creature that was found off the coast in Barangay Rojales.

The first Oarfish, which was 10-foot long, was found on February 8, two days before the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that hit Surigao City.

Photos of dead Oarfishes have sparked debates over the Internet, as some said the fish can predict earthquakes.

The discovery also sparked discussions on social media.

According to the National Geographic’s article, 5 Surprising Facts About the Oarfish That Has Been Washing Up on Beaches, Oarfishes have been known to forecast earthquakes.

The article quoted Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, a scientist who studies earthquakes at e-PISCO, as saying that deep-sea creatures living near the sea bottom are more sensitive to movements of active faults.

The Surigao quake last February 10 left eight people dead and injured more than 200 others. Authorities pegged the damage at almost P700 million.

The last major earthquake to hit Surigao was in 1879, with a magnitude of 7.4, according to Renato Solidum Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

Solidum told SunStar Philippines that the probability of another strong earthquake is low but the agency is not discounting it.

Source: Sun.Star

Another Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) was found in P-1 Rojales, Carmen Agusan del Norte today.

Source: Elesa Rosé Jane Allocod Facebook, via Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook

Another Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) found at Agata Mining, near Tubay yesterday.

Source: Clark Van Facebook

Photos: ABS-CBN News

Philippines: Dead Oarfish found in Mindanao sparks debate: Can animals predict earthquakes?
11th February 2017;

The earthquake that jolted Surigao del Norte on Friday night jogged the memory of some people on social media, who were saying an incident two days prior could’ve served as a sign for the disaster that was about to strike.

On Wednesday, a 10-foot-long dead Oarfish (Regalecus sp.) was caught by fishermen off the coast of Agusan del Norte.

To some, deep-sea creatures such as Oarfish that end up in shallow water are a good predictor of earthquakes. How true that is remains very much a debate?

“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,” Rachel Grant, a lecturer in animal biology, said in a report posted on the Independent news website in October 2013.

In an undated Japan Times article, seismologist Kiyoshi Wadatsumi said 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.”

To the untrained observer, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

Stories proliferated too linking the devastating Japan tsunami of 2011 to incidents of Oarfish beaching that prefaced the disaster.

According to Japanese folklore, Oarfish are nature’s version of prophets of doom.

But not all beachings or strandings or instances of dead deep-sea creatures being found in shallow water are followed by earthquakes and that’s why scientists find such speculation fishy.

In the same Telegraph report, Hiroshi Tajihi, of the Kobe Earthquake Centre, said: “These are just old superstitions and there is no scientific relationship between these sightings and an earthquake.”

While the Oarfish-earthquake connection holds water, more studies need to be made to confirm it as irrefutable scientific fact.

Some experts, such as Tajihi, believe this is an open-and-shut case. Others such as Grant seem to have a more open mind.

At the time of her interview with the Independent, Grant said she was putting together materials for research on the subject.

“We do know that there’s not an earthquake after every Oarfish sighting, but we are going to see if there is an increased probability of Oarfish being seen prior to an earthquake,” Grant said.

“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.”

Source: ABS-CBN News