The catch that wiggled its way to Facebook fame

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 14;

Angler Ramlan Saim (right) was settling down at one of his usual fishing spots off Pulau Ubin late last month when he reeled in a bunch of seaweed.

At least, he thought that was what it was. But the tangled mess started wiggling about and it seemed the assistant project manager had caught a strange octopus-like creature with more than 100 arms.

"I know that area has a lot of seaweed, so I thought that was what I had hooked," he told The Straits Times. "But then when I put it in the boat, it started to move like an alien."

Mr Ramlan, 53, released the creature but not before taking a video of it which he posted on Facebook.

It went on to capture global attention, attracting more than eight million views and almost 130,000 shares.

Like Mr Ramlan, many Facebook users - some as far away as Germany and the United States - expressed their shock at the catch, calling it "gross" and "creepy".

It has since been identified as a basket star - a distant relative of the starfish. According to Wild Singapore, only one species of basket star - Euryale aspersa - is listed in local waters. The creature has five arms, each split into more dexterous "branchlets".

British newspapers The Daily Express, Daily Mail and Metro had quoted a Mr Ong Han Boon, 54, as claiming he had caught the basket star off Sentosa. But the photo accompanying many of the stories in fact showed Mr Ramlan's post.

Mr Ramlan has since clarified that it was he who hooked the bizarre catch, adding that only reporters from The Straits Times had contacted him.

He is not bothered that Mr Ong was credited. "He must have been one of the people that shared the video, and they thought he was the fisherman that caught it," said Mr Ramlan, who was surprised at the attention his video has received.

"All of a sudden, I had a lot of friend requests from foreigners. I thought I was getting spammed."

Mr Ramlan said the basket star was the only catch of his fishing trip that Sept 27.

He added: "My wife is the lucky one - she caught a baby grouper that day."