Mystery of creature washed up at Hill Head beach is solved

THE DISCOVERY of a strange ‘monster-like’ fish sparked an investigation from Portsmouth’s aquatic experts into its identity.

Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 2:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 6:44 pm

Sophie Burgess was walking on Hill Head Beach near Fareham on Saturday when she discovered the ‘alien like creature’.

Sophie said: ‘I thought it might be some sort of puffer fish but we can’t identify it. I often walk on the beach and it is not like anything we have come across before. It looks very unusual - very midnight zone monster-like!’

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The strange creature washed up on Hill Head Beach which scientists now belive to be a lumpsucker fish.

The photograph of the fish caused confusion as experts sought to solve the mystery and identify the creature from the deep.

Experts at the Animal Care Team at the city’s Blue Reef Aquarium ruled out it being a puffer fish and said it may be a northern stargazer, native to the eastern coast of the USA.

The team said: ‘We are fairly positive it is not a puffer fish. If we accept the rounded body shape is its natural state and not caused by bloating, then it looks very similar to the deadly stonefish or the northern stargazer. If it is a stargazer then it is very far from home as they are native to the coast of the USA.

‘If the body has swollen with decomposition then it is possible that it is an entirely different species of fish altogether.’

An example of an adult lumpsucker fish Picture: University of Portsmouth.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth’s Marine Sciences Faculty initially thought the species could be a monkfish – also known as an anglerfish or sea-devil.

University scientist, Dr Mark Tupper, said: ‘Monkfish typically live at depths greater than 200ft and so it is unusual to find one washed up on a beach. They are a scary-looking fish but delicious to eat and command a high price in restaurants.’

However, after consulting fellow scientist Ian Hendy, experts now believe the creature to be a lumpsucker fish – named after the sucker on its stomach which attaches to rocks on the sea floor.

A juvenille lumpsucker fish.

Dr Tupper said: ‘After having a look at the image on a big screen we believe it is a lumpsucker fish. They are quite common in shallow, nearshore water so a beach find is not unusual.’