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Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish (Perhaps)

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:57 pm
by Louis P. Burns aka Lugh
Some funny things happen here at Upstate Renegade Productions at times. Take today for instance. Diarmuid arrived around 3.30 pm and told me that on the way down to here his dog, Monty, started barking at the river. When he went to see what was making Monty bark he spotted a strange looking dead fish, lying on its side in the seaweed by the shore. He described it to me, but try as I might, I couldn't picture the beast in my mind. So, he took my camera and went back to the site where the fish was. He took these shots:-





He also shot a little bit of footage which he's working on right now.

Both of us were a bit dumb-struck by this fish because neither of us had seen anything quite like it before. So, we googled images of fish and soon discovered that the only thing that looked like it, was a fish known as the Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish which is normally native to warmer waters like Australia, New Zealand, Tazmania and Japan. Indeed, it's a delicacy in Japan.

So, this poor critter was lost, to say the very least. We phoned the Magee campus - part of the Ulster University who in turn put us through to their wildlife departments up in Coleraine. We didn't have much joy on that number so we decided to ring the regional BBC news services in Belfast. They jumped on it. They wanted us to email the pictures up to them. So we did. Hopefully they'll cover this at some point.

Then a lovely lady called Nicola from BBC Radio Ulster got hold of the story and phoned me. She asked if one of us would like to be interviewed live on the air about the discovery. At the same time Michael Bradley of BBC Radio Foyle arrived here with a fancy microphone/recorder and interviewed us. Then both he and Diarmuid went back to the site where the fish was found. Radio Foyle may run the story on tomorrow morning's show. Should be good fun.

From trawling the internet we've discovered that these fish eat jellyfish, are docile, have hard skin and loads of bones. They normally swim in pairs and are badly affected by temperature changes in the water which cause them to become disoriented and can eventually kill them. They can grow to massive sizes and the one we have photographed was roughly 2 - 2.5ft according to Diarmuid. When the footage is processed you will see a plastic milk container bobbing in the water close to the fish. It's a pint container, so should give you a better idea of the size of the fish in question. Apart from that, the meshed metal you see in the above shots is a shopping trolly, so that should give any of you interested a perspective on size...

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 9:19 am
by Catherine Edmunds
Good grief... never seen anything like it :shock:

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2007 11:03 am
by Louis P. Burns aka Lugh
Strange fish eh? In the above post I said that I didn't have much joy with the University of Ulster calls I made to Coleraine campus. The next day however, I got through to David Griffiths at their Environmental Sciences department. He said that although sunfish are rare in waters as northerly as Lough and River Foyle, they do happen. Sunfish around Ireland aren't completely odd. Off the coast of Kerry (the toes of Ireland ~ South West) they can be found in the warmer gulf streams around u-boat wrecks.

According to one of the people I spoke to at BBC, one was spotted in the busy Belfast Lough a few months back. There have been several sightings off the Cornish and Welsh coasts too.

These creatures can grow really big. Here are a few clips on YouTube where you can get a fuller picture on just how large they can become:

Here is a great lecture all about sunfish from Monterey, California 2003:

I have to be completely honest. I think these fish are amazing and I've learned so much about them over the last few days :D ...