Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday, October 22, 2010

Live Ocean Sunfish Stranding - Scusset Beach State Pier

Aerial view - Scusset Beach to right of the canal entrance

This afternoon Cape Cod Canal Rangers from the US Army Corp of Engineers were alerted that a live ocean ocean sunfish that had accidentally gotten wedged between the pilings of the Scusset Beach Fishing Pier. This pier is situated in the Scusset Beach State Reservation and juts out into the swift, cold waters of the Cape Cod Canal. The tide was ebbing (going out) so the water under the Fishing Pier was dropping. This created a very dangerous situation for the ocean sunfish for without water, the fish would not be able to breathe.

The Canal Rangers called Krill and she alerted other NECWA staff members who might be available to assist with this rescue effort. Dominica and Bob were able to join Krill as they all met at the Scusset Beach Fishing Pier ready to help out in any way possible. Dominica did a fabulous job of taking photographs of the rescue attempt and Bob helped pull and lift the animal.

Krill also called her good friend and NECWA supporter, Greg McGrath. Greg has assisted with ocean sunfish strandings in the past and is a good person to have on hand for he is a scuba diver and runs his own shop, Aqua Center in Sandwich, MA. Greg was a great asset for this rescue for he was able to get into the water with the animal and see what was going on from that perspective.

Also assisting that afternoon was John from the DCR (Dept. of Conservation and Recreation). John came down to the pier with the departments Kubota mini 4 X 4 vehicle which was greatly needed since it had a winch on the front. And on site lending support was John from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As the tide continued to drop, the ocean sunfish was high and dry but still wedged tight in the wooded pilings of the fishing pier. This sunfish has to be close to 7 feet in length weighing up to 400 lbs. There was no way that anyone could pick up the fish so the crew started working on trying to winch the animal out of its predicament.

While the Canal Rangers, Greg and John worked out the logistics of how to dislodge the ocean sunfish, Krill kept pouring water through the gills in an attempt to keep the gills wet. The hope was to keep oxygen flowing through the animal's body. Time was running out for this sunfish and the team knew that. Every minute counted so a number of different ways of moving the animal were tried. There was a lot of back-breaking pulling from Bob, John and the rest of the team. And even public bystanders pitched in to help.

After about an hour, the team was finally able to get the ocean sunfish back into the water. Krill and Greg gave the animal a final push into deeper water and then Greg took over from there. Greg tried to keep the sunfish upright and moving forward so water would flow into its mouth and over its gills. But the current was very strong in the canal and Greg had to let the animal go on its own.

The fish was still alive when it was released, but it had been out of the water for a long time. We hope this animal survived and will be thinking of it in the weeks to come. NECWA would like to send out a huge thank you to all the people who assisted with this rescue. It was so wondering to see all these people, some friends and colleagues, but most strangers, working together to try and save this very unfortunate fish.

Thank you to the Cape Cod Canal Rangers from the Army Corp. of Engineers including John, Samantha, JP, Ann, Roger, Michelle and the other Rangers who assisted. Thank you to John from DCR and the use of the department's 4 X 4 mini rover. Thank you to John from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Thank you to Greg McGrath for once again coming to my assistance at the drop of a hat. Thank you to the general public who helped pull the sunfish by hand in an attempt to free this animal. And a big thank you to Dominica and Bob for all their efforts during the release.

Ocean sunfish are not the most beautiful fish in the world, yes, I do have to have to admit that. They are not as cute and cuddly as a baby seal. But they are beautiful in their own right and we thank everyone who worked very hard on this animal's behalf.