Sunday, October 4, 2015

The 2015 Ocean Sunfish Stranding Season has begun!

Alex and Carly setting up NECWA's portable weighing tripod. 
As of today, NECWA has responded to 3 ocean sunfish standings on the shores of New England. The first fish stranded dead off Quincy. The second fish stranded dead on the rocks that support the Wellfleet Pier. The third fish stranded live in Duck Creek marsh in Wellfleet, but was not able to be saved due to the very dangerous location where it stranded.
Dead ocean sunfish in the marsh mud.
Close-up view of the dead ocean sunfish. 
NECWA responds to as many ocean sunfish as is possible and will rescue any live animals that are in need of assistance. If a carcass washes up on a local beach, then we conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) to collect tissues and samples for research and education.

Alex paying out the line as Krill tries to reach the carcass. 
Here are some photos from our last necropsy which was conducted on October 3, 2015 in Duck Creek marsh. Krill had to kayak out to the fish which was situated in the middle of the mud flats in the marsh. These flats are very dangerous for the mud can be almost like quicksand.

Krill using a kayak to get close to the carcass deep in the marsh.
By using a kayak, Krill was able to safely reach the carcass as the tide came in. Once close to the carcass, Krill tried to pierce the carcass with a large and sharp hook. Unfortunately, the hook bounced right off as it could not penetrate the thick reticulated collagen right under the thin skin.

As the tide continued to rise, Krill was able to float the ocean sunfish to the shoreline as NECWA staff member Carly and NECWA intern Alex pulled on their end of the line.
Hook sunk into the eye of the ocean sunfish. 
Once the carcass was towed into shallow water along the shoreline, Krill, Carly, and Alex worked very quickly to weigh, measure, and necropsy the fish. As the tide continued to rise, the team had to pull the fish closer to the shoreline every 10 minutes in order to be able to accurately measure the carcass.

Krill measuring the pectoral fin. 
Alex and Krill moving the carcass. 
Alex and Krill putting straps under the carcass. 
Alex and Krill pulling the carcass up onto the beach as the tide came in.
This was a young male ocean sunfish and using NECWA's portable tripod, we determined that it weighed over 450 pounds. This fish was very healthy, but it did have cuts out of both its dorsal and anal fins. Although the cuts were quite extensive, especially those on the dorsal fin, neither appeared to be life threatening.

Very sad to think that this fish died simply because it was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Samples taken back to BSU will be used for research, conservation, and education. NECWA shares samples with researchers not only in New England, but also in Europe.

Measuring the width of the dorsal fin. 

Missing section on the right side of the anal fin. 
 Krill would like to thank both Carly and Alex for doing such an amazing job. This was one of the toughest carcass retrievals and necropsies that the team has attempted. Not only was it messy working on site in the marsh, but it was also very strenuous as you had to keep pulling the carcass up onto the shoreline as the tide continued to come in. Both young professionals worked hard and went over and above what most volunteers do on behalf of the animals.

Alex measuring the cut int the anal fin. 
Carly collecting data. 

 We hope that you will support our efforts to save or examine ocean sunfish that strand on our local New England beaches. NECWA needs your support and all financial contributions will be used to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment. To donate today, go to our website at and click on the Just Give button. Thank you.