The fisherman couldn’t believe what they were seeing – the trawler net swelled with fish. As they stared at their catch, though, something wasn’t right. The mass of fish moved, as if something big was at the bottom. Then the pile shifted, and a shape emerged.
Fishing is a practice that takes patience, skill and a little bit of luck for success. However, over the years, fisherman have developed many techniques to improve their odds while out on the waves. One of the most popular methods of commercial fishing is trawling.
There are several different types of trawling, but most of them are similar in execution. The fishermen drop a net overboard that gets dragged, or “trawled,” through the sea. The net snares fish, which the waiting mariners then haul on deck.
Using trawlers, mariners catch large amounts of fish in the nets (which are also called trawls) at once. Furthermore, trawls catch a different selection of fish when they’re hauled through deeper waters. Some boats even dredge sea beds for shellfish such as oysters and their pearls.
But these methods also have their downsides. For example, large-scale operations can result in overfishing and devastate underwater ecologies. There is also the matter of bycatching. To be more specific, this term refers to accidentally trawling up unwanted fish or marine creatures.
In recent years, Russia has received attention for the unusual creatures caught in their trawls. At least, they look unusual to us, but many deep-sea creatures appear alien to us landlubbers. Take the bizarre bycatches of fisherman Roman Fedortsov, for instance.
One of his trawls was a rare serpentine frilled shark, its mouth filled with rows of shredding teeth. Not much is known about frilled sharks because they live in such deep waters. Not only do they look like living relics, they’re so primitive that authorities call them “living fossils.”
In addition to his other noteworthy catches, Fedortsov also shocked social media with a long-nosed chimera fish specimen. The eerie, lamp-like green eyes of the fish seem to glow on the surface. Add that to its elongated face and whip-like tail, and the chimera fish is certainly a striking find.
To trawler fishermen, these bycatches are a part of everyday life, and not the stuff of nightmares they appear to be. They’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to underwater oddities though. It would appear Russia has a monopoly on surprising trawler catches.
On September 30, 2015, a different boat shot to fame when its crew revealed a bycatch in its trawl. The video actually begins by revealing a net heaving with a huge number of fish. No doubt the lucky catch is the center of the mariners’ attention.
Surveying their haul, the fishermen lower the mass of fish to the deck. But apparently, the mariners have brought a dog on board with them, and it’s detected something. As the trawl drops, a low growl is heard off-camera.
Shortly after, it looks like the fisherman spot something moving under the net. One of the men points to the trawl, and suddenly the net is hoisted off the deck again. Subsequently, a lump at the bottom of the mound starts to move.
The lump struggles a little more but manages to squeeze out thanks to the fishermen’s assistance. As it shifts, the mound reveals itself to be the rear end of a dark shape with a flipper attached. Then the lump turns around, and the creature reveals its identity.
It turns out that the mariners have accidentally fished up a seal in their nets! When the cameraman sees their surprise stowaway, he lets out a raucous laugh. As for the seal, she looks even more confused than the baffled crew.
After she’s surveyed her new surroundings, the seal turns around to see she’s got a visitor. The crew’s dog notices her, and goes over to investigate the new arrival. Although the seal seems only mildly curious, the dog doesn’t know what to make of her.
As a result, the dog starts to bark, but it seems to be more out of excitement than anything else. In fact, you can see its tail wagging like crazy. The seal, on the other hand, doesn’t like the noise and hisses at the dog to warn it away.
When the seal realizes that the dog’s no threat, she seems to go back to ignoring its attempts to communicate. The fishermen let the seal rest for a little while, and then make the decision to throw their surprise catch back.
Obviously, it’s never a good idea to approach a wild animal. Especially if it has teeth that can crack open crustacean shells and shred fish. So the mariners turn on their boat’s hose and aim it in the seal’s direction to convince her to leave.
With that in mind, the fishermen continue to soak their stowaway with the hose. Much to the amusement of her observers, the seal seems to be enjoying herself. But eventually, she has enough and makes her exit off the boat.
The seal leaves with a stylish slide off the trawler’s ramp and back to the waves she calls home. No doubt the fisherman will always remember their encounter with her fondly. But most importantly, they respected her enough to let her go.