Sightings of rare deep-sea oarfish around Japan stoke fears of impending quake

Spotting the rare deep-sea oarfish species is a signal for an impending quake, according to Japanese folklore.

Worried locals have reported numerous sightings and captures of the 5.5-metre long creature since the start of this year.

Some researchers speculate the oarfish moves into shallower waters due to electromagnetic changes that occur when there is tectonic activity linked to faults.

Experts, however, have urged for calm and assuring people that there is no correlation between the fish and earthquakes.

The oarfish has a long silvery body and is believed to live 200 metres below the surface of the northern Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

They migrate to the Sea of Japan on the Tsushima Current, reports the Japan Times, and are recognised by locals as messengers from the palace of the sea god.

Despite rarely being caught in fishing nets, six of the serpents were recently captured or found beached in Toyama Bay, on the western shores of central Japan.


Two oarfish were also netted off the village of Yomitan in the Okinawa Prefecture, south Japan, and three more were caught in separate locations across the country.

Just this month another two more were found off Sado Island and Joetsu city, towards the north of Japan.

The fish has also been spotted in waters off the the northeastern South Korean province, according to local reports.

The sightings sparked discussion about a potential eatherquake among locals online.

One said an "oarfish was seen before the March 2011 great earthquake", which struck the Tohoku region at 9.1 magnitude and sparked a tsunami with 30-foot waves.

However, Yoshiaki Orihara, a professor at Tokai University who has researched potential links between sightings of the fish and earthquakes, said he found “almost no correlation” with quakes that have hit Japan since 2000.

He said: “Many oarfish were found in the Sea of Japan in the winter of 2009, but nothing happened.

“This time, too, there is nothing to particularly worry about.”

An official at Uozu Aquarium in the city of Uozu, Toyama, said: “Changes in the ecosystem and temperatures in the Sea of Japan could possibly be behind the recent series of sightings.

“The situation now is similar to that of 10 years ago,” the official added. “But the precise reason (for the sightings) cannot be known unless changes in each of the captured fish’s (ecosystem and seawater temperatures) are investigated.”

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