Federal scientists are studying this monster rockfish, which a Trident Seafoods Corp. factory trawler caught by accident in the Bering Sea in March.
By DAN JOLING
The Associated Press
Published: April 6, 2007
Last Modified: April 6, 2007 at 10:34 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A commercial fishing boat has pulled up what could have been one of the oldest creatures in Alaska - a giant rockfish estimated to be about a century old.
The 44-inch, 60-pound female shortraker rockfish was caught last month by the catcher-processor Kodiak Enterprise, owned by Trident Seafoods, south of the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.
The 275-foot, Seattle-based vessel was trawling for pollock at 2,100 feet. On one drag, the ship's big net pulled up an estimated 75 tons of pollock plus 10 bright-orange rockfish.
Crewmen alerted Michael Myers, factory manager of the Kodiak Enterprise. He has fished in the Bering Sea since 1988 but never saw a rockfish that big.
Myers is a regular at show and tell time at his sons' school. He immediately thought that he'd save the fish for federal researchers - after the elementary school children got a look at it.
"I thought, 'They're going to love that,'" he said from his home in Marysville, Wash.
Myers ordered the big rockfish to be frozen whole.
The day after he got back to Washington, he brought the big fish to Immaculate Conception Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Everett. Other then one preschooler who was frightened by the fish, the reaction ranged from "cool" to "eeew," Myers said.
That was subdued, Myers said, compared to the reaction by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
"They were like 9-year-olds on Christmas morning," Myers said. "They were giddy."
Researchers measured, photographed and documented the fish. They removed an ear bone, the otolith, which contains growth rings similar to rings on the trunks of trees.
They estimate the rockfish was 90 to 115 years old.
That's toward the upper end of the known age limit for shortraker rockfish, said Paul Spencer of the science center. A British Columbia study put the maximum age at 120 years. A Gulf of Alaska study placed the maximum age at 157 years, Spencer said.
The content of the rockfish's stomach was examined and scientists took tissue samples to measure her reproductive potential.
"The belly was large," Spencer said. "The ovaries were full of developing embryos."
Scientists said the specimen is not the biggest on record. The book "Fishes of Alaska" says a 47-inch shortraker rockfish was recorded.