Photo in the News: Century-Old Fish Caught in Alaska

Giant shortraker rockfish photo
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April 6, 2007—A handful of Christians preparing rockfish as part of their traditional fish dinner this Good Friday might be feasting on one of the oldest creatures ever to live in Alaskan waters.

Commercial fishers in the Bering Sea recently hauled in the female shortraker rockfish seen above, which scientists say was between 90 and 115 years old. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used growth rings in the fish's ear bone, or otolith, to make their age estimate.

NOAA scientists also found that the fish's advanced years had yet to take a toll on its reproductive abilities.

"The belly was large," NOAA researcher Paul Spencer told the Associated Press. "The ovaries were full of developing embryos."

A Seattle, Washington-based ship caught the 44-inch-long (112-centimeter-long), 60-pound (27-kilogram) fish while trawling for pollock at about 2,100 feet (640 meters) below the surface. The massive mama was among ten shortrakers pulled from the depths along with roughly 75 tons of the smaller commercially fished species.

The fish's age and size both approach the maximum known limits for shortrakers. The largest on record measured 47 inches (119 centimeters) long, and the oldest ever caught was 157 years.

—Victoria Jaggard

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