Megamouth Shark #22: Megamouth Caught for First Time in the Pacific Ocean off the Coast of South America

March 8, 2004
Sources of Information:
Miguel Romero and Justo Liza Santa Cruz
Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE)

On the morning of March 8, 2004 at 7:00 am, personnel of the Instituto del Mar del Peru (IMARPE) were carrying out scientific research on board the Ecuadorian tuna fish ship "BETTY ELIZABETH" when they observed a small artisan craft, also of Ecuador, in trouble. It was inclined on the right side of starboard and in its trammel net (placed the day before) was a very large and heavy fish. It was impossible for the crew to bring up such a large fish. The "BETTY ELIZABETH" assisted them by tying a rope on the base of the caudal fin of the large specimen and raising the trammel net.

The fish made movements as the net was rising so we thought it was still alive. The fish was observed regurgitating its food consisting of a variety of fishes, mainly the Engraulis ringens "peruvian anchovy". The specimen was placed on the deck of the small craft with difficulty because its total length was longer than the width of the craft.

The captured specimen was male with a standard length of 4.20 m (from the extreme of its mouth to the base of the caudal fin) and an approximate weight of 600 kg. The fishermen of the small craft told us they were going to take off the fins, head and innards, to cut the fish in filets for human consumption and taken to market in Punta Salinas (Ecuador).

The capture took place at 02°54.374' S and 81°14.858' W, at 41.6 nautical miles of the coast, in front of the Posorja Port, Guayas, Ecuador, close to the Peruvian border. In the zone of capture, young specimens of Engraulis ringens "peruvian anchovy" were observed, with approximate total lengths of 7.0 cm, in groups like "spots". The surface temperature of the sea was 23.6° C. At the moment the fish was captured, the sea was calm, with a light fog and sunshine at the same time.

The photos attached to this report are the only registries of this capture. The species was identified later as Megachasma pelagios "megamouth shark" in the Instituto del Mar del Peru (IMARPE). This report is the first record of this rare species in the Southeastern Pacific region and is the 22nd discovered world-wide.

Artisan ships mainly dedicated to the fishing of Coryphaena hippurus "common dolphinfish" with trammel nets and some tuna fish ships using purse seines are observed in this zone. The crew of the tuna fish ship "BETTY ELIZABETH" said this was the first time this rare species was observed in spite of all the years they have dedicated to fishing, at 19° S 50° N and 130° W.

We thank Mrs. Rita Horta Ali, Chief of Research Technical Scientific Office of Instituto del Mar del Peru (IMARPE) for the facilities to carry out this report.

Miguel Romero Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE) Esquina Gamarra y General Valle. PO Box 22 Callao - Perú Email:

All photos copyright Mr. Justo Liza Santa Cruz