Kiwi fishes up strange see-through sea creature

03:15, Jan 22 2014
translucent sea creature
FOR ALL TO SEE: Stewart Fraser was fishing with sons Conaugh and Finn 70km north of the Karikari Peninsula when he spotted this mysterious creature floating near the top of the sea.

A Northland fisherman was left wondering what he had caught after pulling a strange translucent sea creature from the water off the Far North east coast.

Stewart Fraser was fishing with sons Conaugh and Finn 70 kilometres north of the Karikari Peninsula when he spotted the translucent "shrimp" floating near the top of the water, the Mail Online reported.

"I was in two minds whether to haul it in, but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a closer look," Fraser said.

"It felt scaly and was quite firm, almost jelly-like, and you couldn't see anything inside aside from this orange little blob inside it."

He and his fishing friends were baffled about the identity of the creature.

Niwa principal scientist Dennis Gordon said it was not a fish, but a species of large salp.

"They just float around in the oceans. They are very widespread and they filter plankton," Gordon said.

Salps tended to be seasonal. At times some species were so abundant they washed up on the shore in great numbers, many the size of a thumbnail.

The one Fraser caught was a particularly large species, that could be bigger than a hand. He thought it was a variety of salp called Thetys vagina.

Salps were important in the marine food web because they ate and processed plankton, then were eaten themselves by other organisms such as fish or turtles, Gordon said.

He had not heard of them being eaten by people, although he was unaware of any reports that they could be toxic.

Salps were a planktonic equivalent of the sea squirts which could be found in rock pools around the coast and squirted out water if stood on.