It is not unusual for shrimp fishermen in Key West to haul up strange and unusual items, but Captain Carl Moore was flabbergasted when his crew brought an 18-foot-long goblin shark aboard. According to The Miami Herald, the creature was found caught in his ship’s trawling net about 15 miles off the Florida coast last month.
“First thing I told them boys was, ‘Man, he’s ugly! Looks prehistoric to me,’” Moore told CNN.
While beauty may be subjective, Moore is correct in that the goblin shark could be called a “living fossil.” Scientist do not know much about the species, although it is suspected that the sharks are the only remaining representatives of a lineage stretching back 125 million years. Goblin sharks usually dwell in the ocean depths at over 300 feet below the surface of the water. As such, only one other specimen has ever been caught in the Gulf of Mexico.
Moore and his crew had the rare opportunity to see a live goblin shark, which the fishermen also said was a rather dangerous situation.
“Its teeth were so wicked looking, I didn’t want anyone getting too close to it,” Moore said.
Moore and his crew found the shark thrashing in the net filled with royal red shrimp. The veteran fisherman has plied the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf for over five decades, but Moore said it was the strangest bycatch (fish unintentionally caught while targeting other species) he’s ever landed.
“I was going to take the tape measure, then he flashed around again. I said, ‘Forget the measurement,” Moore recalled. “That thing’ll eat me up!”
Goblin sharks are characterized by their flat snouts and extended mouths, which can actually shoot out further to catch unsuspecting prey. Unlike more familiar shark species, its teeth are long and narrow, giving it a distinctly bizarre look. Scientists believe that goblin sharks are not fast swimmers and instead rely on ambush tactics to catch prey. These strange-looking animals can eat a variety of deep-sea fish, crustaceans, and squid.
The crew of the fishing vessel was able to secure the shark’s tail to a length of rope and hoist it back into the water. The fish was safely released without incident, which Captain Moore said is common procedure with most of his ship’s bycatch.