Two members of the Catalina Island Conservancy were walking the beach Monday morning, looking for birds as part of a survey. Instead, they found something more rare, and strange.
Lying on the beach near Emerald Bay was the long, lanky, vaguely sea serpentlike form of an oarfish. Its body stretched up to 17 feet long.
The fish, usually found at depths of up to 3,000 feet, was dead.
The long, slender fish was shipped to researchers at Cal State Fullerton for examination.
Oarfish are not usually seen off the California coast because they mostly live in deep tropical waters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The toothless, bony fish feed on small fish and shrimp. Sometimes called ribbon fish, the ancient species may have been the inspiration for legends told by mariners and sailors who believed they had seen sea serpents.
Shiny and silvery, they are more likely to swim toward the surface if they are injured or dying, scientists say.
The first sighting of a live oarfish was only recorded 2001, when one was caught on film by the U.S. Navy, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
About two years ago, two conservancy staffers found an 18-foot-long oarfish splashing in the shallow waters.
The fish later died and was pulled ashore, according to the conservancy.