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Goblin shark: Rare and hideous goblin shark hauled from ocean by Fla. shrimpers

A goblin shark – aptly named because of its unsightly features – was accidentally caught by Florida fishermen netting shrimp off the waters of Key West. The 18-foot goblin has a jaw that resembles a Venus fly trap and a sword-like protuberance with a set of tiny, beady eyes. This is only the second time that a bottom-dwelling goblin shark was pulled up from waters off the coast of the United States.

 A goblin shark lies on the deck of a Gulf of Mexico shrimp boat on April 19.
A goblin shark lies on the deck of a Gulf of Mexico shrimp boat on April 19. Photo by Carl Moore / Courtesy NOAA

The San Francisco Gate reported on May 2 that scientists were amazed by the accidental Gulf of Mexico catch. The prehistoric looking goblin shark has only once before been sighted in the Gulf. Goblin sharks are freakish looking; little is known about them because they are rarely found. Most goblins are thought to live in deep waters off coastlines of Japan’s islands.

On April 19, the shrimp fishermen brought up their net from a depth of 2,000 feet. Caught inside was the goblin shark. When they lowered the beast onto the deck of their boat, the shark started thrashing around and biting at the air. The shark was so vicious, the crew could only estimate its length.

“I didn't even know what it was,” said fisherman Carl Moore. “I didn't get the tape measure out because that thing's got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage.” Moore, who had recently given in and purchased a new cell phone with camera capability, snapped a photo of the grotesque shark, which quickly went viral. The crew then hoisted the creature back into the waters, where it quickly swam away.

Moore says no one was as impressed with their catch as his shark-loving 3-year-old grandson. “My 3-year-old grandson, he just loves sharks so I've been taking pictures of every one we find, when I showed him this one he said, ‘Wow, Pappa!’” Moore said, adding that he agrees that the fish is, shall we say, a little “fishy” looking.

“I never seen something so ugly in my life,” Moore said, who has been shrimping for 50 years. The lifetime fisherman told KeysNet.com that the shark's teeth “were so wicked looking” that he told his crew to avoid going near it.

Moore reported his catch just this past week to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Based on the photographs submitted to the NOAA, researchers estimated that Moore and his crew caught an 18-foot, female goblin shark.

“This is great news,” said researcher John Carlson from the NOAA.”This is only the second confirmed sighting in the Gulf, the majority of specimens are found off Japan or in the Indian Ocean and around South Africa.”

The long snout of the goblin shark may be equipped with some sort of electrical sensor to assist the shark to hunt for prey. The ink-black depths of our ocean’s floor are devoid of all light sound. Fish that dwell there have to resort to other means to spot their prey.

Moore called the shark a “catch of a lifetime,” despite the fact the crew promptly let it go. Like many fishermen, Moore has a special connection with his hunting grounds, and respects the life that the ocean holds. “That's my ocean out there and anything in it concerns me… I know the value of trying to preserve things,” Moore said.