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Instructors Discover Rare 18 Foot Oarfish in Toyon Bay


CIMI Staff Discover Rare Oarfish at Toyon Bay, Catalina Island, CA


TOYON BAY, CATALINA ISLAND, CA  - In the late afternoon of Sunday October 13th, 2013, CIMI instructors returned home to find an oarfish in the crystal waters of Toyon Bay. 

An instructor’s leisurely snorkel turned into the discovery of a lifetime.   Jasmine Santana was shocked to see half-dollar sized eye staring at her from the sandy bottom.  Her first reaction was to approach with caution until she realized that it was dead.  The body of the fish was almost perfectly intact and it appeared to have died naturally.  Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) instructors were unloading gear from the Sailing School Vessel Tole Mour following an amazing journey to Santa Barbara Island when they saw Jasmine struggle to pull a large silvery animal into the shallows.  “The craziest thing we saw during our two day-journey at sea happened when we got home.  These islands never cease to amaze,” instructor Connor Gallagher exclaimed.

The instructors found themselves sprinting down the pier to both assist and explore a fish most people do not even know exists.  It took a group of 15 adults to transport the oarfish up the beach to a better viewing area. Mark Johnson, the longest serving CIMI employee could not believe his eyes.  “In 32 years here, I have never seen anything like this!”

Oarfish are found in all temperate to tropical waters, but are rarely seen, dead or alive.  The giant oarfish is the longest bony fish species, topping at around 56 feet.  It is believed that oarfish dive over 3000 feet deep, which leaves them largely unstudied and little is known about their behavior or population.  They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.  CIMI instructors sent tissue samples and footage to Dr. Milton Love, a renowned fish expert and author from University of California at Santa Barbara, and await a final decision on the species.

For information, contact CIMI Toyon Bay Program Director Jeff Chace 310-510-1622