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Two rare species caught by Achill trawler

A bull nosed eagle ray.
A bull nosed eagle ray, similiar to the one pictured here, was caught by James O’Gorman on Sunday afternoon.

Two rare species caught by Achill trawler

Anton McNulty

Instances of rare aquatic species being caught off the west coast continues to rise, with an Achill fisherman catching two rare species within an hour at the weekend.
Skipper James O’Gorman was fishing close to the Bills Rocks off the Achill coast on Sunday afternoon in approximately 60 metres of water when he captured a giant box crab – a very rare occurrence. An hour later he landed a bullnose eagle ray, believed to be the first caught in Irish waters since records began.
“I have been fishing for over 25 years and I thought I had caught everything around these waters but I never seen anything like this [bullnose eagle ray],” Achill-based fisherman O’Gorman told The Mayo News.
“I knew it was part of the ray family and I googled it later online and concluded it was a bullnose eagle ray. I sent a picture to a scientist who often comes out on my boat and she confirmed it was. I was speaking later to another scientist in Dingle who said that as far has they knew there had never been one in found Irish waters since records began,” he explained.
The bullnose eagle ray is normally found in subtropical waters in the western Atlantic Ocean along the south-west US coast and in the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, this ray fish did not survive when it was brought aboard the Achill boat.
The bullnose eagle ray is named so because of the distinctive bullnose features on its face. Its eyes are located on the sides of the head, and it has a long whip-like tail marked off from its body.
The giant box crab is also extremely rare in Irish waters. However, this marks the the second time such a species has been caught off the west coast within the last month. On June 5, Inishturk fisherman, Michael O’Toole netted a box crab while fishing off the Inishbofin Stags in around 70 metres of water. He donated the crab to the National Aquarium in Galway, but it died just four days after being caught.
Giant box crabs normally live in the great depths of the continental shelf, at 3,000 metres below sea level. Incredibly, this is the second time James has caught a box crab. The last time was nearly seven years ago when he donated the crab to the National Aquarium. He plans to do the same thing again with his latest catch, which is still alive.
“You could be a long time fishing without catching anything like them. It’s amazing I caught two very rare species within an hour of each other,” he quipped.
The 42-year-old skipper, whose family own a very popular fresh fish shop in Keel, believes that climate change is the reason for the number of rare species entering Irish waters, and he maintains they may become more common in the future.
“I feel that global warming has a lot to do with it as the temperature of the waters increase. We are so close to the gulf stream here, and as the water gets warmer, these species are drifting closer to the Irish coast.”

CREATURE FROM THE DEEP The giant box crab caught by Michael O’Toole.

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