Our Sustainable Fisheries Analyst, Scott Wallace, knows what it feels like to have his entire head clamped in the jaws of a lingcod.
Here's some background to help you understand how such an odd thing might happen. The month of February is a peak time for lingcod to spawn along Canada's Pacific Coast. First, the male comes inshore to find a suitable territory, usually one that has good habitat for depositing eggs. Then the females arrive to choose a large male with a good territory.
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After spawning, the female leaves an egg mass that ranges from the size of a grapefruit to large pumpkin—generally the larger the female, the larger the egg mass. As soon as she deposits her egg mass, the female leaves. However, the male lingcod sticks around for up to two months to protect the egg mass from predators.
While on a dive researching lingcod, Scott was measuring an egg mass when a large male lingcod protecting the mass bit him on the head. The lingcod is the largest predator in the coastal ecosystem, reaching sizes of up to 150 cm (60 in) and a weight of 59 kg (130 lbs). Their mouths are so large that it was able to bite fully around Scott's head. Don't worry, Scott was unharmed in the incident, as were the lingcod eggs.
Just a few decades ago, thousands of fishing boats depended on lingcod, but due to low numbers, the Salish Sea is now closed to commercial harvest of this amazing fish.
With good fisheries management and a strong network of protected areas, there is hope for a strong recovery of this fish, but Canada is falling behind in meeting its obligations to protect our oceans. Read more about the state of Canada's oceans here.
Do you have a story about the ecology of Canada's Pacific Ocean that you would like to share? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: lingcod Dan Hershman via flickr