Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Team Mola

Researcher Aimee Carlson presenting on recent ocean sunfish tagging activities.
What does it mean to be a member of Team Mola? On a small scale, it means working with friends and neighbors on a community-based project focused on the heaviest bony fish in the world - the Ocean Sunfish. The mission of this team is to better understand and protect Ocean Sunfish, or Mola mola, that live and feed off the shores of New England. 
Fisheries Biologist Aimee Carlson
On Saturday, September 20th, the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) in collaboration with Coonamessett Farm Foundation and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary hosted their first Team Mola training session at the Mass Audubon sanctuary in Wellfleet, MA. The goal of Team Mola is to build a network of volunteers that can assist NECWA with rescues and necropsies of ocean sunfish strandings. These strandings are annual event that occur each fall and early winter, typically along the shores of Cape Cod. 
Marine artifact materials on display
Team Mola members work together to gather as much information about Ocean Sunfish as possible. Working with NECWA staff and interns, Team Mola members assist with rescues of live ocean sunfish as well as necropsies (animal autopsies) of carcasses that wash ashore. The efforts of Team Mola help NECWA more efficiently, safely and effectively respond to ocean sunfish strandings. Team Mola members also provide additional coverage with more recent projects, such as NECWA's tagging and tracking activities. Fisheries biologist Aimee Carlson from Coonamessett Farm Foundation in Falmouth provided an update on her teams recent tagging efforts using both satellite tags and mark & recapture tags. 

Powerpoint Presentations
Since 2005, NECWA has sponsored a community-sighting network called the New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Project at This network asks the general public to report their sightings of live and dead basking sharks and ocean sunfish the they see from a boat or from the beach. What NECWA was not expecting were the annual calls each fall and early winter concerning stranded ocean sunfish. Now NECWA is prepared and is working hard to address this issue.
Team Mola field kits to support the work these volunteers are doing.
When reporting a sighting, make sure to record the date, time and position of the animal and take lots of pictures. This information is important for it builds on what we know about these coastal pelagic giants who are some of the most unusual looking fish in New England. There are many good and free app for cell phones that provide a latitude and longitude. Take a screenshot of that screen and you will have both the time and the location of whatever you are trying to document. 
Hal Levine teaching participants how to weigh an ocean sunfish
Team Mola is also about connecting the New England community with the unique marine animals that live in our coastal backyard. It provides unity and collaboration by asking the community to come together to help an animal in need.
Showing correct measuring techniques on a cardboard ocean sunfish.

If you would like to learn more about Team Mola, contact NECWA at Anyone can get involved so give us a shout and let's see how we can include you in this exciting and innovative group. 
To learn more about NECWA and its goals, visit our website at
Showing how to collect measurements using a cardboard ocean sunfish
If you would like to learn more about the amazing Ocean Sunfish, check out these websites:
Blog posting written by Krill Carson and Haley Pollard (NECWA Intern)