Video: 840-lb “Earthquake Fish” Caught in Taiwan

It’s one big fish. A man in Taiwan caught a sunfish weighing 840 lbs. And if that’s not enough, he also caught a swordfish weighing more than 260 lbs.

Some Chinese media are calling them “earthquake fish.” That is, fish believed to be displaced from their normal deepwater habitats because of the recent earthquake off the coast of Japan.

Here’s a video from local media.

Are big, deepwater fish really driven to shore after an underwater earthquake or tsunami?

Bruce E. Jaffe, an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey, told us he doesn’t think so.

I’ve never heard of “earthquake fish”… I think it is doubtful that the earthquake and tsunami would have driven sunfish and swordfish closer to shore. Earthquakes cause underwater noise, but I don’t know if this would drive fish into shallower water. The tsunami in the deep ocean doesn’t result in strong currents, so I doubt it would have caused the fish to go into shallower water, where currents would be stronger.  I suspect, but don’t know, that the fish came closer to shore because of a warming of the water.

My response is partially based on something that happened in Monterey Bay some years ago. Sunfish (mola mola) came into the Bay during an El Nino year when water temperatures were warmer.

Jaffe points to this chart tracking rising water temperatures in the area over the past month, and to this abstract of a study of sunfish movement in the Pacific Ocean.

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