COLOURFUL CATCH Skipper Micheal O’Toole (right) and crewman Darren O’Toole holding the Giant Box Crab which they caught while fishing off the the stags of Inishbofin on the vessel the Inisgalloon last Tuesday.
Rare giant crab caught off the Mayo coast dies in Galway aquarium
The journey from the edge of the deep water of the continental shelf to the Irish coast was just too much for one giant box crab. The crustacean died last Friday in the National Aquarium in Galway, days after he was caught by an Inishturk fisherman.
The rare giant box crab was hauled up in the nets of fisherman Michael O’Toole last Tuesday afternoon a mile off the stags of Inishbofin in approximately 70 metres of water. The species, rarely caught in Irish waters, normally lives in the great depths of the continental shelf, around 3,000 metres beneath the surface.
The ‘monster from the deep’ was taken to the National Aquarium in Salthill in Galway. However, it was unfortunately found dead in its tank on Friday morning.
Kevin O’Hara, Manager of the National Aquarium told The Mayo News that while they are not sure why the crab died, they believe that it may have been the stress of the journey from its natural habitat.
“The first 24 hours are critical to whether it will survive or not,” Kevin explained. “We have no idea why it died, but stress may have been the main factor. We were hopeful it would have survived, but unfortunately it did not. It was a very unusual crab, very rare, and it was a big catch.”
Michael O’Toole, who knew when he hauled his net on board he had caught something special, was also disappointed to learn of the crab’s death.
“I have been fishing for over 40 years and I never seen anything like it before in my life,” he told The Mayo News. “We were fishing for cray fish when he got caught in our nets and when we hauled him in, I knew we had caught something special. When we brought him ashore there was great excitement with the young people wanting to have a look at it. People living off the island were looking forward to seeing it and we were terribly disappointed when we got the call from Galway that it died.”
Michael said the crab was much easier to handle than the normal spider crab, and he felt it was in good health when he brought him ashore. Despite the crab not surviving, Michael feels very fortunate to have caught such a rare species.
“We did our best for it. We were very fortunate to catch something so rare and unusual in Irish waters. The only unusual thing I caught before this was a turtle.”
The giant crab, which measured approximately 43 inches from claw to claw, is normally found in very deep waters on the edge of the continental shelf which runs from Morocco to Ireland.
Due to the great depths at which they live little is known about giant box crabs, however it is thought they are scavengers and live mainly off dead fish they find on the seabed. Only a handful have been caught in Irish or British waters in the last century. Few have survived the change in sea pressure as they are hauled ashore.