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A gigantic 10m-long squid, believed to be the largest ever found, has been caught by New Zealand fishermen in the Ross Sea.

Weighing an estimated 450kg, the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) was eating a hooked toothfish when it was hauled to the surface of the New Zealand vessel San Aspiring, owned by the Sanford seafood company.

If the monster was turned into calamari, the rings would be the size of tractor tyres.

Putting the colossal squid on public display at Te Papa would be "a mammoth task" but it could happen, a spokeswoman for the national museum said today.

Communications manager Jane Keig said: "We are very hopeful that it will come to Te Papa. Of course, storage of an animal the size of the colossal squid is a major undertaking."

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said yesterday it was likely to be the first intact adult colossal squid caught.

"The squid was almost dead when it reached the surface and the careful work of the crew was paramount in getting this specimen aboard in good condition," he said.

"The crew stopped winching in the long-line for two hours while the squid was manoeuvred into a cargo net and hauled aboard. It was then stored safely in the hold."

The squid, which was caught about three weeks ago, was put in a 1200-litre capacity bin, taking up three-quarters of the space. It has been frozen and is in storage in Sanford's cool store in Timaru.

It will be transferred to Te Papa where it will be preserved for scientific study.

Dr Steve O'Shea, a world-renowned squid expert at the Auckland University of Technology, was reported as saying the squid eclipsed the previous largest find, which weighed 300kg and was found in 2003.

"I can assure you that this is going to draw phenomenal interest. It is truly amazing," he said in an article on

All New Zealand fishing boats in Antarctic waters have Ministry of Fisheries observers on board to monitor catches and help preserve specimens.

The vessel was fishing for Antarctic toothfish.

It was skippered by John Bennett, who is the inaugural winner of the Golden Albatross, an international award made for outstanding commitment to mitigation of seabird bycatch.

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt said the catch would be featured in a television documentary.

He said none of the crew were available for comment because they were still at sea.

Colossal squid grow up to 12m to 14m. They are the largest known squid species and the world's largest invertebrate.

They are believed to have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom.

Only a handful of them have been seen. One was found in the net of a Russian trawler in the Ross Sea in 1981, another found near the surface in 2003 and another near South Georgia Island in 2005.

- Additional reporting: NZPA