PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Serpent-like deep-sea fish with protruding fangs, bulging eyes and scaleless, slithery bodies are washing up along Oregon beaches — and biologists aren’t sure why.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced Monday that numerous lancetfish have washed ashore in Oregon in recent weeks. Beachgoers from both the northern and southern coasts of the state have reported spotting the dead or dying fish in their local surf, too.
“These deep-sea fish live in tropical and subtropical waters and can migrate as far north as the Bering Sea to feed,” the agency stated on social media. “No one is sure why they are washing ashore.”
One lancetfish was found alive and helped back into the ocean, where it swam away, officials said. Beachgoers who locate a lancetfish along the beach are encouraged to take a photo and post the sighting to the Oregon State Parks and NOAA Fisheries West Coast Facebook pages.
Lancetfish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, can be found in any of the Earth’s non-polar oceans. Despite being deep-sea fish, they’re also not entirely rare sights, at least to fishermen in the Pacific who often catch lancetfish while looking to hook “bigeye tuna or swordfish,” the NOAA writes.
Unlike tuna or swordfish, the two known lancetfish species are not prized as food due to their taste and “gelatinous flesh,” the NOAA writes. They are, however, often eaten by other lancetfish, as the two species are known to be “notorious cannibals,” according to the NOAA.