A very rare cold-water-loving leopard fish has been landed by a Donegal vessel, reports Lorna Siggins.

The leopard fish, also known as the spotted wolfish (Anarhichas minor), swims in deep water across parts of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic between northern Russia, Scandinavia and Nova Scotia in Canada.

The 5.9kg specimen was caught off Rockall by the Foyle Warrior, based in Greencastle, Co Donegal.

Galway fish merchant Stefan Griesbach contacted rare fish expert Declan Quigley after he spotted it in a box of fish from Greencastle, and knew it was significant.

The leopard fish has been declared a threatened species in Canada, but does not have international protected status.

It is generally found much farther north, and in deep cold water, Declan Quigley said.

To his knowledge, there are only two records this far south – off Aberdeen in October 1892, and off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire in June 1993.

He said the fish could be this far south due to melting glaciers, or could be adapting to warmer sea temperatures.

The leopard fish primarily feeds off crustaceans and molluscs, while it will also eat smaller fish, seaweed and tube worms. It is slow-growing, maturing at around seven years of age, and can live up to 21 years.

“They are nice fish to eat – I often had them for dinner during my frequent trips to Norway about 20 years ago,” Declan Quigley said.

“I also remember noting that the chairs in the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin were upholstered with Anarhichas minor skin!”

Stefan Griesbach displayed the leopard fish on his Gannet Fishmongers stand. He said he plans to freeze it for taxidermy, and to donate it to the Natural History Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

“I might have got €30 for this fish, which would have made no sense, and this is a much better idea,” he said.

“Maybe the museum will have a little plaque with my name for my grandkids to see…”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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