The National Park Service announced last week that a ragfish had washed up in Gustavus, Alaska near the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Ragfish, a little-known deep sea fish that is rarely found close to the surface, have only appeared twice in the area over the last 40 years.
“A ragfish washed ashore and was found by DOT employee Jeff Jarvis near the Gustavus dock this morning. The first known observation of this rare fish in the Gustavus area was made by a park maintenance employee last July,” Glacier Bay National Park wrote on its Facebook page. “Both fish were gravid females close to 6 feet long.”
Ragfish get their name from their limp, rag doll-like body structure and incredibly soft skin. They have no scales and can grow up to seven feet in length, making them popular prey for sperm whales. The fish are believed to have a sizable population off the Alaskan coast and are often caught in trawl nets, but rarely seen by recreational anglers.
“As adults are thought to live at depths near 4,000 feet, little is known about the ecology of this animal,” Glacier Bay National Park wrote. “Ragfish are mostly cartilaginous and their flesh is much like a squid. Limited data suggests that they mostly eat squid, octopus and jellyfish, though nothing was found in the digestive tracts of the two that washed up here.”
Both females were carrying eggs when they washed ashore, although biologists have yet to come to any conclusion over what that means. Two ragfish also washed up near Juneau in 2013.