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Rare deep-sea fish found on Achill beach

Martin Lavelle is pictured with the very rare breed of deal fish found on Keel Beach last week.
Martin Lavelle is pictured with the very rare breed of deal fish found on Keel Beach last week.

Rare deep-sea fish found on Achill beach by local fisherman

Anton McNulty

Fisherman Martin Lavelle thought he had seen most species of fish around the Irish waters, but he was stumped by what he found washed ashore on Keel beach last week.
While out walking his dog, Martin came upon a deep-water fish known as a deal fish (Trachipterus arcticus) caught in sand and lying in six inches of water. A fisherman of many years, Martin has seen many species of fish, but admitted he was perplexed by what he came upon.
“I saw something in the sand and I went out to it and and dragged it in. To be honest I first thought it was some sort of sword fish, but it was half buried in the sand and it was only when I pulled it in I could see it fully. I had never seen anything like it before in my life nor had any of the experts I showed it to since,” he explained.
The fish was approximately 58 inches long, with a long flat body and large eyes, which Martin said he had ‘never seen the likes of’ on a fish before. It also had bright red fins, including one long dorsal fin running the length of its back, but the brightness of the fins began to fade after it was taken from the water. By the condition of the gills, Martin believes it had not been dead for long when he found it. It also had been slightly damaged, which could mean it had been attacked by a seal or a shark.
After taking it ashore, Martin showed it to local maritime expert, John O’Shea who was unable to identify it. However, the size of the eyes lead them to think it was probably a deep-water fish.

The deal fish found by Martin Lavelle (pictured) and his dog, Keem.
STRANGE FISH The deal fish found by Martin Lavelle (pictured) and his dog, Keem.

After researching on the internet they were eventually able to identify it as a deal fish which according to afishblog.com is a ‘rare sight as it lives in deep waters’, at a depth of 300 to 600 metres. Occasionally like in Achill, dead species wash up ashore but does not have the ‘elegance’ on land as it has in the sea.
There are two different stocks of deal fish - the Northeastern Atlantic and the Northwestern Atlantic. In 2007, a Norwegian trawler fishing for blue whiting off the west of Ireland caught a number of deal fish in its nets.
These fish were later eaten by the crew, but the Achill fish will be offered to maritime science. It is currently in a freezer in Achill waiting to be taken away by a marine biologist from Galway, who will examine it.
This is not the first time Martin has come across some rare species in Irish water. In 1990, while fishing off Achill, he helped capture a Leatherback turtle along with a remora and a pilot fish, which are usually found in tropical waters. The remora and pilot fish were donated to the National Museum of Ireland while the dead Leatherback can be seen in the less salubrious surroundings of a local pub. In 2002, Martin also caught an Electric Ray which at a weight of 40 kilos is an Irish record.

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