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Japanese Aquarium Snags Rare 'Living Fossil' Goblin Shark; Creature Dies After Being Put on Display

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TOKYO, Japan -- A goblin shark -- a rarely seen species often called a "living fossil" -- was caught alive in Tokyo Bay but died after being put on display, an aquarium said.

The grey, long-nosed shark was caught in fishermen's nets around 150 to 200 metres (500 to 650 feet) deep. It was discovered by officials of the Tokyo Sea Life Park when they took a boat with local fishermen on January 25.

"We were able to bring it to the aquarium alive and show it to the public," said an official at the park.

But the shark died on the morning of January 27.

"Dead goblin sharks are caught from time to time, but it is rarely seen alive. We were able to document the way the shark swims. After it died, we dissected the specimen for further studies," he said.

The shark was about 1.3 metres long.

Resembling pre-historic sharks, goblin sharks live on deep sea bottoms. Little is known about their lives.

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Reader Comments

25 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

It lasted only 2 days in captivity - what does that tell you about wild animals? THEY DON'T LIKE BEING IN CAPTIVITY. I just can't believe that the Tokyo Sea Life Park thinks that this outcome was a 'success' - I guess I should be used to it now after the cruelty of the Japanise Dolphin Drives.
   comment# 1   - James Warburton · London, UK · Feb 8, 2007 @ 4:10am

The other sad part about this story is the Japanese fishermen were using a net 500-600 feet deep. How much more does the Japanese need to deplete our seas?
   comment# 2   - Jorge M. · Orlando, FL USA · Feb 9, 2007 @ 7:02pm

THEY DON'T LIKE BEING IN CAPTIVITY - totally agree, more needs to be done to stop this for all marine life, if people want to see it, learn to dive and see it in its natural habitat
   comment# 3   - Emma Holman · Devon, uk · Feb 10, 2007 @ 3:13pm

i think its totaly appaling what they did and learn to leave the animals alone!
   comment# 4   - luke · england · Feb 15, 2007 @ 10:57am

Leave rare species alone, if we know nothing about them so of course they'll die
   comment# 5   - ali · usa · Feb 20, 2007 @ 8:01pm

I agree if we dont know about anything about these rare species DON'T do anything just take a picture or something to prove it NOT JUST TAKE IT THEN IMPRISON it! ITS WILD! I just hope its still alive we could've breed have more of them I hope some of them are still there under the ocean hiding from us.
   comment# 6   - Jio · Australia · Feb 24, 2007 @ 12:16am

When I read this i felt enraged. Isn't this what we humans do, catch, kill and dissect. the poor thing should have been left alone to breed, then maybe we would see more of them.The Tokyo sea life shoul be ashamed of themselves. I know I'm ashamed of them.
   comment# 7   - Susan Lee` · Telford England · Feb 26, 2007 @ 9:33am

I don't share the same anger as you. Rare species are caught all the time. The only difference is that you found out about this one. The Japanese were not targeting this particular fish. They have been fishing for food for centuries. My only qualm with this is that they were fishing at depths that would undoubtedly catch rare fish. Fish like these will continue to be accidental casualties as long as anybody (not just the Japanese) eat fish. The article doesn't go into detail how long the shark had been in captivity before it was on display, but I'm glad that the public got a chance to see something like this if for a reason to see the biodiversity of our planet. They should've displayed a picture of it shown from the top though--the goblin shark has a characteristic horn.
   comment# 8   - tim · Vancouver, BC · Feb 27, 2007 @ 10:23pm

Yeah, people got to observe the shark dying for two days. This is not going to give any of the officials at the Tokyo Sea of Life any hard data on how this fish goes about it's days. Great Whites cannot live in captivity and their surface feeders. What makes them think they are going to have success with a deep water fish? IT WAS MURDER!!!
   comment# 9   - Moonie · Cincinnati, Oh. · Mar 1, 2007 @ 6:54am

Tokyo Sea Life Park(TSLP) gave the public a chance to observe a rare a little known shark species and perform further research on the specimen, thats fine. This shark was a victim of the fishing industry not of the TSLP, it was bycatch which would not have survived anyway. Anybody who eats fish was the cause of this animals death, millons species of fish, rays, sharks, dolphins etc are destroyed every year as a byproduct of the fishing industry. So if anybody honestly objects that strongly about the death of this goblin shark, think about it next time you have fish and chips, think about the marine ecosystems that are being destroyed while you take each bite, because that the real cost of your meal! I eat fish, farmed fish and prawns sure it cost more but its worth it. THE OCEAN IS FAR MORE FRAGILE THAN LAND.
   comment# 10   - Ross · Australia · Mar 6, 2007 @ 6:08am

I just dont understand why we have to captivate animals who are almost extinct. Why can't we just leave them alone. Whats so great about watching an animal suffer. Then oh, I guess he died. Isn't anyone going to do anything to stop it??!!! Or do we have to kill off every animal before somone realizes we have a problem, by then it will be to late. So who's going to stand up?
   comment# 11   - Laura · Bartow · Apr 10, 2007 @ 4:24am

The shark was already dying. Plus the article is wrong. It wasn't a goblin shark that was found, it was a Frilled Shark. Also, the Frilled shark's nickname is fossil shark, not the goblin shark.
   comment# 12   - Chris Joy · Baton Rouge, LA · Apr 23, 2007 @ 12:03pm

Captivity of wild animals is cruel. This rare animal only lived for TWO DAYS!! This is wrong. You think they'd try to get pictures of it WITHOUT harming the animal. Who knows if that might have been the last female, male, or any of its kind? Humans just have to go and mess up this stuff. It's terrible.
   comment# 13   - Shirley · Huston, Texas · May 5, 2007 @ 11:14am

Please help release captive sharks: please sign my petition
   comment# 14   - VALENTINA · Los Angeles, CA USA · Sep 9, 2007 @ 10:47am

that so cool do you think you could send me some videos.
   comment# 15   - todd shaffer · fort worth texas · Dec 18, 2007 @ 12:03pm

To: Ross (Australia) I really agree with what you say, but I would MAJORLY have to disagree with what you said about land. I mean, the ocean is NOT more fragile than the land. You see, that's the kind of thinking that leads to pollution. If we're not careful, the land we walk on is going to DIE OUT. Maybe, we should'nt only think of the ocean (where we dont live) and start thinking also about the earth, as in land, that we live on (which we DO live on). If you cared for the land as much as you seem to care for the ocean, maybe you'd think twice next time you're about to liter.
   comment# 16   - alias: Karina · sao paulo, brazil · Feb 17, 2008 @ 3:17pm

I really do think that it's cool that a goblin shark was caught alive, but it's just so sad that the Japanese fish market catches so much. I mean, over 100,000 sea creatures are caught each day and the population can't reproduce as fast as we're taking these animals away. That's why so many species are dissapearing these days.
   comment# 17   - Christina V. · Marietta, Georgia · Mar 28, 2008 @ 5:16pm

It is a bad thing whenever something dies, but as long as its in my belly I do not care. If the so called gblin shark was supposed to be a fossil, the fishermen probably helped mther nature out. I bet mother nature is patting the fishermen on the back saying something like " thanks for all your help". In short dont worry about mother nature, she always have a means of bringing back what she had lost...
   comment# 18   - fictinal spy · Seattle, USA · Mar 30, 2008 @ 1:58pm

This goblin shark needs go to ocean instead u all an idiots.
   comment# 19   - SUSAN LEE · NEWBURY, OHIO · Apr 7, 2008 @ 9:44am

Chris Joy - anyone with access to a search engine could tell you that the shark that was caught was in fact a Goblin Shark, the frilled shark you were referencing looks entirely different from that of the one pictures above. Referring to this shark as a living fossil is probably more a comment about the fact this shark is an incredibly old species as sharks have survived the 4 major extinctions the worlds history has seen. It is a shame to see this species put on display and although this is really more of an example of the effects our fishing industry creates in our seas the tokyo aquarium needs to set an example to demonstrate that they do not support these practices. Their actions almost glorify the capture of this goblin shark. I work in a fantastic aquarium, and in fact the ocean's eco system is more fragiel thatn that on land. We ned to do our part on both ends to protct both land and water, but land has always depended on the sea. People need to be more aware of what the fishing industry and long lining has done to species which have been in our oceans for millions of years and consider this may have grave consequences.
   comment# 20   - Faye Alexanderson · Vancouver, Canada · Sep 5, 2008 @ 4:00pm

GET A friggin' LIFE M8S
   comment# 21   - jackwood · Hartlepool · Jan 2, 2009 @ 3:57am

what the hell
   comment# 22   - fat · australia · Jul 21, 2009 @ 9:33pm

the animal most likely died from a heart attack due to being showed off people who show rare animals off are curel to them the shark should have been released to the wild as soon as the fishermen found it that way it would still be alive or at least able to reproduce to make new ones.
   comment# 23   - rain · germany · Apr 6, 2012 @ 5:16pm

The animal was caught at a depth of 500-600 feet because that's where it can live. Putting it in an aquarium tank of a few feet--plus everything else mentioned--assured its death.
   comment# 24   - Beverly S. · Knoxville TN, USA · Jan 25, 2015 @ 9:56am

Well, James Warburton, if you did your research you would realize that this fish didn't die because he was unhappy or he didn't like captivity as you say. The fish died most likely because the fished lives at 500-1000 meters deep in the japanese sea. it died due to the lack of pressure in its tank and being taken from that depth to nearly no pressure in the tank.
   comment# 25   - Hunter Jones · Dayton, United States · Mar 4, 2016 @ 9:20am
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