Rare goblin shark caught in Australian trawl net

goblin shark
A rare goblin shark, this one a juvenile, was caught in a trawl net off Australia. Photo by Michael McMaster used by permission

A scary and creepy-looking goblin shark, a rare deep-water shark sometimes referred to as a living fossil, reared its ugly head in a fishing trawl net in deep waters off Australia last week.

Lochlainn Kelly, 22, fishing with his father Mike, was “more excited than frightened” when the goblin shark was discovered in their net along with a load of crayfish, The Sydney Morning Herald and Merimbula News reported.

Just as a rare goblin shark caught in a net in the Gulf of Mexico created a buzz in the scientific community, this one produced quite a bit of interest at The Wharf Aquarium in Merimbula where it was being examined.

A local fisherman named “old Errol” said he’d never seen one in all his decades fishing in local waters.

goblin shark
The goblin shark typically inhabits waters 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep. Photo by Michael McMaster used by permission

The goblin shark is the world’s rarest shark, and a contender for the world’s ugliest sea creature. It is the lone surviving member of the Mitsukurinidae family, which dates back 125 million years.

Alan Scrymgeour of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre described the deep-water shark to the Morning Herald as belonging to an “evolutionary dead end,” as it stopped evolving about 70 million years ago during the dinosaur era.

The goblin shark has a unique elongated, paddle-like snout that features hundreds of small sensors that can detect small electrical fields produced by the crustaceans and cephalopods they feed on.

goblin shark
The goblin shark grows to more than 12 feet long. Photo by Michael McMaster used by permission

Adult goblin sharks grow to over 12 feet long and live in waters 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep. This one was caught in 2,000 feet of water. It was a juvenile between 2 to 3 years old, measuring just under 4 feet long.

“They are a very deep-water shark that has been rarely recorded from Australian waters,” Michael McMaster, curator at the Wharf Aquarium in Merimbula, told GrindTV in an email. “[It] does not mean that they are rare in the waters in which they live, it is just that very little fishing is done at the depth in which they live. Because so few have been studied very little is known about them.”

goblin shark
The elongated, paddle-like nose of a goblin shark features hundreds of small sensors used to hunt for food. Photo by Michael McMaster used by permission

The Kellys were trawling southeast of Gabo Island south of Eden in New South Wales when they made the unusual catch.

“We just winched up the wire and brought the net on and the shark was in the net,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t [freaked out], if anything I was pretty excited. I’ve seen photos of them before, but I’ve never seen one before.”

Soon, others will be able to see one, too. The fish is to be sent to the Australian Museum in Sydney for its collection.

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