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Loch Ness Monster May Really Be Lost Baltic Sturgeon

December 29, 1993 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Forget the leftover dinosaur theory and call the caviar salesmen. The legendary Loch Ness monster may be nothing more than a series of Baltic sturgeons that blundered into the Scottish lake in search of mates.

That’s the conclusion of ″Nessie″ hunter Adrian Shine and a new study that says the lake doesn’t hold enough fish to keep a full-fledged monster alive.

An upcoming, comprehensive review of the ecology of Loch Ness discounts the possibility that Nessie is a reptilian candidate for Jurassic Park.

The last plesiosaur, or water dinosaurs, were fossilized 65 million years ago, when Loch Ness was still under a giant glacier. Nor is it a mammal or an amphibian.

About all that leaves is a large fish, the theory when Nessie was first sighted in 1868.

Thirteen research papers to be published in The Scottish Naturalist conclude the total fish population of Loch Ness is only about 20 or 30 tons, making it quite barren.

Any resident predator could weigh only about one-tenth of that, or 3 tons. To sustain a population of monsters, there’d have to be about 10 of them, of a maximum of 660 pounds each. That’s roughly the size of a big sturgeon - a fish valued mainly as a source of caviar.

A sturgeon wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of food, because it only enters fresh water from the sea to breed and spawn and, while there, doesn’t eat.

It has a long snout that could resemble Nessie’s long neck, and a dorsal fin. It lives in cold northern waters like the Baltic Sea and ventures only rarely into British waters.

″It isn’t impossible to imagine one of them blundering up the River Ness in search of a mate and failing to find one,″ said Shine, head of the Loch Ness Project at Drumnadrochit on the shores of the murky lake in the Scottish Highlands.

″This is the sort of thing that could have started the tradition. But it would be rather nice to think I am wrong.″

Shine told The Times of London he believes most of the 4,000 reported sightings of the humped Loch Ness Monster are actually the wake of boats.

However, there have been several grainy photographs produced over the years purporting to show a long-necked or serpent-like creature, or indistinguishable shadows and bumps that could be almost anything. Nearly 1 million tourists visit the lake every year.

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Shine, a 44-year-old former salesman who has been Nessie-hunting for 20 years, led a $1.6 million expedition to try to find her in 1987. It used sophisticated American electronic equipment mounted on a fleet of boats but produced only three tiny inconclusive sonar bleeps.

The first locally recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, announced in the Inverness Chronicle newspaper in 1868, spoke of a huge fish. But the Loch Ness Monster legend dates to 565 A.D. when St. Columba, who brought Christianity to Britain, is supposed to have rescued a farmer from a monster’s grip.