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Rare fish in Tanzania's Indian Ocean

Coelacanth, a rare, endangered fish that was once believed to be extinct was last caught in July by Tanzanian fishermen, according to researchers.

world Updated: Sep 21, 2007 13:37 IST
Kyodo

Researchers are yet to unravel the mystery of a rare species of fish that has been in existence long before the dinosaurs lived on this earth.



Coelacanth, a rare, endangered fish that was once believed to be extinct, according to researchers, was last caught in July by Tanzanian fishermen, off the coast of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, and was the third to be reported in Tanzania this year alone.



"It's a mystery even to us since as it was thought to have become extinct millions of years ago," Narriman Jiddawi, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam, told Kyodo News.



The prehistoric coelacanth was thought to be extinct until one was caught in 1938 off the coast of South Africa, leading to increased scientific interest in the creature. "Since 2005, we have heard of about 36 cases where coelacanths have been caught in Tanzania," Jiddawi said.



In July, fishermen caught a specimen of the rare fish around the Nungwi area of Zanzibar, and surrendered it to government authorities, officials said.



Researchers say, that after surviving for millions of years, the coelacanth species is now threatened due to high demand for wild fish, rapid population growth and sophisticated commercial fishing fleets in the Indian Ocean.



The tropical waters of Tanzania have recently become a favoured spot for scientists seeking new populations of coelacanth, believed to have been swimming the seas for 400 million years.



The coelacanth was around long before dinosaurs and was long thought to have died out over 65 million years ago. But the 1938 catch off South Africa netted by a fishing trawler had shocked the scientific world.