A dead giant ocean sunfish, weighing about 50 kilos, was found off the shore of Sibulan town in Negros Oriental yesterday morning.
Two fishermen found the sunfish – of the genus Mola but whose species has to be verified yet – near the Sibulan wharf. It drew a lot of attention from residents, who said they have not seen that kind of fish in their lifetime.
Janet Estacion, OIC director of the Silliman University-Institute of Environmental and Marine Science, described the sunfish as very solitary, rarely seen in the wild, and hardly appears in the shallow and coastal waters in the Philippines.
The fish was 1.3 meters wide from fin to fin and about 1.4 meters long, from snout to tail. Estacion said its injuries may have caused by being hit by a ship, or it had been accidentally caught in the fishing net. That its appearance was due to the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit Central Visayas last week could not be discounted, she said, but added she believes it was already distressed when it came out.
Sunfish is the heaviest known bony fish in the world, is pelagic and prefers to swim in deep waters most of its lifetime, she added. Only a few documented findings of sunfish, whether stranded or coming close to the shore, have been reported in the Philippines.
She said the sunfish is not edible but in some countries, like Japan, its meat is considered a delicacy.
The dead fish was brought to the SU-IEMS marine laboratory and Estacion led a team in the preservation of the ocean sunfish. She said they tried to get DNA samples from the sunfish whose skin and meat are very tough and akin to a “collagen material”.
She also said they found a lot of parasites on it while preserving it.
Estacion said she does not know if the sunfish is listed as a threatened species. She said sightings of stranded sunfish had been reported in past years in Pamilakan Island off Bohol, in Davao and another one in San Jose or Amlan town, Negros Oriental, between 2005-2006.*JFP
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