The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States Department of Commerce wants you to know that mermaids are not real.
We all know that mermaids are half-human, half-fish creatures of the sea that have been a fixture in folklore for thousands of years. But what a lot of us don't seem to know is that they're not actually real, they don't exist and never have. So to clarify the situation for everyone, the NOAA has posted a brief article in its "Ocean Facts" section entitled, "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."
"The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas," it says.
"But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," it continues. "Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists."
The outpouring of information was apparently prompted by Mermaids: The Body Found, a show "that makes a strong case for the existence of the mermaid, a creature with a surprisingly human evolutionary history, whose ancestral branch splits off from a shared human root." It aired on Animal Planet in May, and while a bit of small print in the middle of the press blurb reveals that "the film is science fiction," at least two people have since written to the NOAA inquiring about them.
This isn't the first time an agency of the U.S. government has issued this sort of bizarre but nonetheless official denial; in November 2011, the government issued a formal denial of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations.