National Hagfish Day
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Isn't this the ugliest thing you have ever seen? Hagfish are widely considered the most disgusting animals in the ocean, if not on earth. The eel-shaped creatures use four pairs of thin sensory tentacles surrounding their mouths to find food—including carcasses of much larger animals. Once they find their meal, they bury into it face-first to bore a tunnel deep into its flesh. The estimated 76 species of hagfishes live in cold waters around the world, from shallow to as deep as 5,500 feet (nearly 1,700 meters). They are sometimes called “slime eels”, but they are not eels. They are in the class Agnatha, designated for fish without jaws around 100 species in total. Despite the fact that they seem repulsive, they are undoubtedly unique—and just because animals are disgusting to human sensibilities doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our attention and protection. That is the message behind Hagfish Day, which occurs every year on the third Wednesday of October. Hagfish are threatened from both intentional fishing and unintentional bycatch. Hagfish weren’t always fished, but because several more preferable fish species are overfished and hard to catch, fishermen have moved down to catching hagfish.