This strange, shark-like creature was captured near the Gulf of Mexico last week, which due to the timing of April Fools’ Day, led it to being written off as a joke. However, Jaime Rendon, captain of the ship the caught the bizarre fish, says it is very much real.
“I was really surprised, but what caused most impact were the eyes, so strange,” Rendon told Pisces Sportfishing Fleet.
The fish was reeled in by a client of Rendon’s near El Tule in the Cabo corridor. The creature was different from anything that Rendon, a veteran fisherman, had ever seen before. It had pale raspy skin, only three gill slits on either side, and rows of tiny teeth. Rendon said that after documenting the fish, they released it back into the water safely. The anglers suspected that it may have been an endangered shark species, and did not want to keep it out of the water for too long.
Experts seem to have reached a consensus that the fish Rendon captured may be an albino swellshark. Judging by the photos, the fish matched many characteristics of a swellshark—including the characteristic bloating that gives the animal its name. On average about 40 inches in length, swell sharks can expand its body on command when threatened by predators. This not only scares some predators away, it also prevents them from pulling the fish out of the rocky reefs it lives in. Swellshark sometimes show up as bycatch for fishermen.
Swellsharks can be found from as north as central California down to Chile. They are not considered a very palatable fish, which explains why there little to no demand in harvesting them. Occasionally, saltwater anglers will come across one and cause it to puff up in anger. It is not very dangerous to humans, so this display is more amusing than frightening.