As It Happens

A tropical moonfish the size of a large dog washed up in Oregon

Tiffany Boothe rushed to the beach when she heard that an unusually large and colourful fish had washed up on the shore. It was a brilliant orange and silver moonfish — unlike any other she'd seen on the Oregon coast — and the size of a large dog.

'I probably won't see it again in my life,' says Tiffany Boothe, assistant manager at the Seaside Aquarium

A bright orange and silver moonfish, about 91 centimetres long and weighing 45 kilograms, washed up on the north Oregon coast this weekend. (Tiffany Boothe/Seaside Aquarium)

Read story transcript

Aquarium worker Tiffany Boothe rushed to the beach when she heard that an unusually large and colourful fish had washed up on the shore in Seaside, Ore. 

It was a brilliant orange and silver moonfish, the size of a large dog, and it was unlike any other fish she'd seen on the Oregon coast.

"For him to be this close to shore and wash up on the beach in the way he did, that's kind of the more unusual part about this fish," Boothe told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner.

"I probably won't see it again in my life."

Moonfish, or opah, live in warmer, more tropical waters. They are solitary fish that don't swim in schools, but follow the same current as tuna. In the summer, they travel as far north as Oregon, but Boothe says it is unusual for one to wash ashore.

The moonfish hadn't been on Sunset Beach for long before it was spotted by volunteers with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. They called the Seaside Aquarium, where Boothe is the assistant manager.

Some locals have speculated the moonfish's arrival is a side effect of climate change, Boothe said, but she cautioned against jumping to such conclusions.

"People are speculating global warming without knowing that these guys do actually come this far north," she said.

Boothe says it's normal for moonfish to appear off the coast of Oregon, and they fished nearby. But usually, she says, they are farther out from the shore. And when they die, they tend to sink deep into the water, rather than washing up on the land. 

She's not sure what happened to this one that brought it all the way to shore. 

"Without opening the little guy up, we won't really know," she said.

The Seaside Aquarium will dissect the moonfish with a local school group to determine which species it belongs to. They will also investigate its stomach samples for its cause of death. (Tiffany Boothe/Seaside Aquarium)

While some species of moonfish can grow as big as 1.8 metres and 272 kilograms, Boothe says others max out at about 91 centimetres and 45 kilograms — which is about the size of the fish that washed up in Oregon. 

"So it could be that it just simply died of old age," she said. "It also could be that he is full of parasites. You know, there's a lot of different speculations and, in the end, we probably might not ever find out."


The Seaside Aquarium will dissect the moonfish with a local school group to determine its exact species. They will also investigate its stomach samples for its cause of death.

"If everything works out well, we're going to preserve the skeleton and re-articulate it, in the hopes of having it on display at the aquarium," Boothe said.


Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Tiffany Boothe produced by Kate Swoger.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now