Two rare oarfish which had washed up on the shores of Japan have caused fear and panic among the people of a natural disaster, which is a myth in Japan. On Friday, February 1, two oarfish were found after being caught in fishing nets bringing the total found this season to seven, reports CNN.
Earlier this month, an oarfish around 3.2-metre (10.5ft) washed up on the Toyama Bay shore, Similarly In another incident a 4-metre(13.12ft) long oarfish was found tangled in a fishing net at Imizu port. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this snake-like creature can grow to be more than 6 metres (20 feet) long.
The mysterious oarfish is a catfish which lives 200 and 1,000 metres (660 to 3,280 feet) down in the sea and has a silvery skin and red fins and is the longest bony fish in the world.
In Japan, the oarfish is known as “Namazu” and according to traditional folklore it is believed to be "Ryugu no tsukai" which is translated to "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace". The Namazu is considered one of the ‘yo-kai’, the creatures of mythology which cause misfortune. The legend states that the fish rise themselves to the surface of the beach to send out warnings of an unforeseen disasters like earthquake or Tsunami. People believe whenever the fish appears on the beaches of Japan, it shows that an underwater earthquake is approaching.
Since the fifteenth century, namazu has been depicted in various legends. However, it was only in the late eighteenth century that the catfish became associated with natural disasters.
This scientists have shown keen interest in this mysterious yet not rare fish particularly because it lives in a largely unfamiliar ecosystem of the oceanic mesopelagic zone, that is below the surface. But the scientists dismiss these myths surrounding the creature and have stated that "There is no scientific evidence at all for the theory that oarfish appear around big quakes. But we cannot 100 % deny the possibility," Uozu Aquarium keeper Kazusa Saiba told CNN.
He further cleared that the one reason why the fish appeared on the shores could be the effects of global warming. Other scientists have claimed that the fish appears on the surface due to poor physical conditions.
Scientists also say that there hasn't been any such reports of irregular or increased seismic activity in recent weeks.
However, there is a reason why this fish has reputation of bad omen or doom in Japan. In 2010, it was reported that at least a dozen oarfish had washed up onto Japan's coastline and in March 2011 a magnitude-9 earthquake hit Japan’s Fukushima triggering a gigantic tsunami which killed over 15,894 people and around 2,500 people are still missing. After this, many newspaper articles began to speculate about the alleged connection between sightings and earthquakes.
Similarly, in other parts of the world too, this fish has been sighted offshore. In July 2015, a live oarfish was caught in Santa Catalina Island off the southern California coast, being the third oarfish which was spotted in 19 months in the waters surrounding the island. In 2014, one specimen was washed ashore along the Santa Monica coastline and in 2013, in just a week, two specimens were found dead on the shores of Santa Catalina Island. However, no tsunami or similar natural disasters followed these sightings.
But people were quick to express their fears on Twitter: