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Two More Unusual Species Caught

A Johnson’s Scabbard Fish was caught by MFV Cisemair while pair-pelagic trawling with the MFV Buddy M in surface waters (0-50 m) for Albacore SW of Mizen Head. The juvenile specimen, measuring c.40 cm was discarded after being photographed by Padraig Ring. It is one of few known records of this species, also known as Black Gemfish in Irish waters. Johnson’s Scabbard Fish is a wide ranging, predatory, meso-pelagic, circum-global species, found in oceanic waters from the surface down to depths of at least 1540 m throughout the North and South Atlantic and Pacific

It is rarely captured due to its fast-swimming ability and compressed elongated body shape (maximum recorded length - 130 cm) There are only six previously reported records from Irish waters. The first Irish specimen, measuring 73 cm, was captured during August 1908 in a demersal trawl at a depth of 1340-1540 m on the Porcupine Slope. Almost 100 years later (February 2004), a second specimen, measuring 81.5 cm, was captured by the MFV Emerald Dawn (Skipper: Mick Flannery, Dingle) in a Nephrops trawl at a depth of 600 m on the Porcupine Bank.

The MFV Argonaut IV (Skipper: Jonathan Kirwan, Clogherhead, Co Louth) captured a Black Sea Bream measuring 20 cm and weighing 400 g, while seine netting near the Kinsale Gas Field, off Co Cork. Jonathan remarked that over the last 4-5 years they had caught a few Black Sea Bream every summer in the same area, including a specimen weighing 1.1 kg last year, and that they seemed to be coming north every year.

Although Black Sea Bream (BSB) are widely distributed in the Eastern Atlantic, ranging from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and Black Seas and southwards along the African coast to Angola and northern Namibia, the species is generally regarded as uncommon north of the English Channel. However, it is possible that BSB may eventually become more common in northern European waters if the present increasing trend in sea water temperatures continues.

With thanks to Declan Quigley, SFPA Howth, for this information who says: “It is likely that Johnson’s Scabbard Fish are captured in Irish waters more frequently than the current paucity of records would suggest, particularly by offshore pelagic and demersal trawlers. I would be grateful for details on an additional records (declanquigley@eircom.net; 087-6458485).

He also says: “Although Black Sea Bream (BSB) are widely distributed in the Eastern Atlantic, ranging from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and Black Seas and southwards along the African coast to Angola and northern Namibia, the species is generally regarded as uncommon north of the English Channel. However, it is possible that BSB may eventually become more common in northern European waters if the present increasing trend in sea water temperatures continues.”

• Cisemair, out of Castletownbere, also caught another unusual species - only the third oilfish caught in Irish waters since 1934 about 80 nautical miles SW of the Cork coast in August.