Exotic oarfish makes rare appearance in Malibu

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The rare, ribbon-shaped sea creature was far from home when it washed ashore in Malibu this week.

Darrell Rae was on a Sunday morning stroll on Malibu Colony beach when he spotted the 12-foot-long silvery fish with a brilliant red mane and scarlet dorsal fin floundering in the water a few dozen feet from the shore.

“I grew up on the beaches and I had never seen or even heard of anything like it,” the 40-year-old marketing manager said, “so I knew it had to be something that came from far away and deep in the ocean.”

When Rae returned with his camera, the creature had washed ashore, dead. Half a dozen people were gawking at the long, thin leviathan, wondering if it might be some kind of eel.

But the first to correctly identify the serpentine creature was an 8-year-old boy who recognized it from school and strode up beside the adults to inform them: It’s an oarfish.

“He knew exactly what it was,” Rae said. “He spoke with conviction about this fish that none of the adults even had a clue about.”

Biologists with the California Wildlife Center arrived and corroborated the boy’s assessment: It was indeed an oarfish, a species rarely seen this far from the deep sea, where it is believed to reign as the longest bony fish in the ocean.

The storied sea creatures have washed up on California shores only a few times, most recently in 2006 on Catalina Island.

Oarfish are largely a mystery to scientists, but they are typically found 700 to 3,000 feet beneath the surface in tropical and temperate waters, where they feed on small squid and krill.

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