Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sighting of Ocean Sunfish

On the afternoon of July 4th, a local fisherman spotted an ocean sunfish, Mola mola, 150 feet off the entrance to the Waquoit Bay jetty. From all observations, the fish was in good health and was swimming slowly at the surface. This "easy going" behavior allowed the fisherman to get some fabulous photographs of this strange and wonderful fish.

This sighting is the first one that has been reported to NECWA this season! NECWA has a community-sighting network for ocean sunfish and basking sharks called NEBShark (New England Basking Shark Project) and we ask all interested members of the community to report sightings of live or dead animals offshore or on the beach.

Information from NEBShark will be used to better understand the biology and life history of the ocean sunfish and the basking shark, two large, coastal pelagic fish that feed off New England each spring, summer and fall. And the data collected from the sighting network combined with information collected during strandings will be shared with other researchers in the US and abroad to advance our knowledge even further.

Last season, NECWA staff and interns responded to two live strandings of ocean sunfish and 18 incidents of dead stranded animals. No one knows why ocean sunfish strand along our Cape Cod beaches each season, but we hope our efforts will help to answer this question.