Ocean Sunfish Washes Ashore in Kent, England
There’s been a buzz in Whitstable in Kent, England in the past few days after one of the world’s largest fish was found washed ashore on New Year’s Day.
The Mola Mola, or Ocean Sunfish, is usually found in tropical and temperate waters like the Caribbean, but this one somehow found its way north, likely carried by the strong ocean currents of Storm Frank that battered Britain last week. The fish, some of which have been spotted near the coast of southwest England in recent years, likely became disoriented and died from exposure to the cold waters.
It was noted that the dead Sunfish was first spotted by Gunther Clasen and his wife Gisela while walking along Seasalter Beach. According to Gunther, “When we got home we tried to find it in one of our identification guides, but to no avail, which suggested that it might indeed be something unusual. It was with expert help from my wife’s mother that we identified it.”
Another walker, Vicki Oliver, posted a picture on Facebook after spotting the Sunfish. “We were walking the dogs near the beach huts and I had never seen anything like it before. Quite often, when we take the dogs for a walk, I see catfish washed up. But I just wanted to know what it was so I posted it on Facebook to find out.”
One of Vicki’s pictures shows her size six foot next to it. She estimated it was just over a foot in height and over two feet in length.
The Ocean Sunfish is regarded as the heaviest bony fish in existence, growing to a length of over 10 feet and weighing up to a ton. They can swim up to 16 miles a day at a top speed of nearly two miles per hour at depths of up to 2,000 feet. The fish usually travel alone in open waters, though occasionally they have been spotted in pairs or large groups near kelp beds while being cleaned by smaller fish. Their diet consists mainly of various species of jellyfish, as well as salps, squid, crustaceans, small fish, fish larvae, and eel grass. Because their diet is nutritionally poor, they must consume large amounts of food to maintain their size. Due to their thick skin, they have few natural predators and are considered a docile species. The flesh is a delicacy in places like Taiwan and Japan, and parts of the fish are used in some areas of traditional medicine.