fish are large with a flat body shaped roughly like a slightly elongated
disk. They are greyish and have a long fin above and below the body.
The body on the ones I saw was perhaps 1.5 metres (5 feet) long and the
fins more than 60 cm (2 feet) long. I understand they can get much
larger. They are apparently no good to eat which, given how easy
they would be to hunt, is just as well. Brian
the most memorable sighting was from the boat, when we spotted a Sunfish,
mola. These are oceanic fish, weak swimmers which are successfully
carried to south-western Britain by the Gulf Stream. They are most peculiar
looking fish, deep bodied and laterally compressed, and look as if the
back half of the body is missing entirely; it ends abruptly in a sort of
frill, and there is no tail.
Sunfish swims by sculling itself along with two huge triangular fins and
we first saw the dorsal fin sticking up out of the water and flopping slowly
from side to side. It swam slightly zigzag and at an irregular speed, moving
forward as the fin flopped one way, slowing almost to a halt, then moving
forward again as it flopped the other way. It was presumably propelled
by the submerged anal fin.
Almost circular body profile
when viewed side on (i.e. the vertical longitudinal plane), although compressed
in the horizontal longitudinal plane. The head is roughly a third of the
total body length, with a small mouth fronted by large fused teeth. A small
gill slit is to be found located just in front of the small pectoral fin.
The eyes are approximately half way between the mouth and the pectoral
fin, although slightly higher than their vertical position.
Both the dorsal and anal
fins, are narrow and greatly elongated, to about the same degree. They
are set towards the posterior of the body, and fuse at their bases with
the greatly diminished tail fin, which appears only to be a thickened posterior
fringe. Coloration ranges from a brownish grey/blue, that pales towards
by Phil Whiting
FISH INDEX http://www.uk-fish.info/Index.html
The caudal fin is truncated.
a couple of the records detailed on the Cornwall
Wildlife Trust web page give sizes. One is a small 40 cm the other
is described as 1 m long and 1.5 m across fins.
ones that I've seen off the Cornish coast at Pendeen, Cape Cornwall and
Porthgwarra have all been between 1 m and 2 m long and 1 m and 1.5 m across
the fins. This is all pretty approx. but gives a rough idea of the size.
They have all been on their sides.
people that I have spoken to say that they swim on their side as they conserve
energy by drifting and that they also 'enjoy' warmth. Perhaps some type
of thermoregulatory behaviour?
Mola mola, weighing 363 kg, was washed up on Tayside,
Scotland, in 1960.
"There are Giants in the Sea" Michael Bright
0 86051 481 1
a fish (probably Sunfish) under 8 feet in length. Scottish West Coast,
1950's, Plymouth research vessel "Discovery" off the Azores observed
a possible Sunfish 10 feet (3.1m) by 8 feet (2.4m)
Fiona off Bird Island, Australia had its port propeller snagged and stopped
by a Sunfish 3.1 m x 4.3 m (10x 14 feet) weighing 2,235 kg.
a picture from the archive of Glasgow University
a large Sunfish (at a guess 1.5 m long) which was exhibited at the Scottish
Oceanographical Society. Caught north east of the Falkland Islands. No
date given, guess at pre WW II.
Museum of Scotland picture of the Sunfish on board a vessel.
n a manuscript in the Koninklijke
Bibliotheek (Royal Library) in the Hague, written by Adriaen Coenen in
1584 a sunfish is mentioned and figured, caught 14
October 1583 "behind England" (Irish Sea?) by two fishermen from
Zierikzee, a fishing town in the south-west of The Netherlands.
Size about 60 cm.
Another sunfish mentioned
in the manuscript was washed ashore near The Hague on 12
December 1565, 8 feet long and 6 feet high. The entrails were taken
to prepare the fish for conservation. The fish was so heavy that eight
strong man had difficulty to put the fish on a wagon. The conservation
was not successful.
/ subtropical fish of open oceans.
and comb jellies, and jellyfish-like hydrozoans including Velella.
you approach a sunfish lying on or near the surface slowly in a small boat
it is possible to pick it up and take it into the boat. Divers of our club
have done this and have collected some of its parasites for me to examine
before returning it to the water. One of its parasites recently collected
was a tiny crab-like creature about 5 mm across (and there were hundred
of these on the 1 metre [3 ft] diameter fish) a copepod called Lepeophtheirus
nordmanni. If you try it, you will find the fish quite slimy but
I would like to examine any parasites you find.
of the observations are listed on the Seaquest
SW (Cornwall Wildlife Trust web pages).
records show that it was at one time hunted by Aran Islanders, with the
aid of harpoons.
to the Sussex Records (from the late John Barker)
(earliest at the top):
A large Sunfish,
was washed up dead on Gibraltar Point beach, near Skegness,
Lincolnshire. This specimen of a normally large fish weighed an estimated
68 kg (150
lb) and measured just over a metre long (3½ ft).
The height, including the fins was 1.38 metres (4½ ft). These fish
tend to be infected with parasites. This specimen had over 100 tapeworms
in its gut.
the west coast the Sunfish is reported several times every year, and not
unusual enough for every single entry to be included in these News Reports.
We still like to hear of observations of this fish. It is rarer in the
North Sea. Off Dorset a specimen has even been seen by a diver underwater.
Point is a sandy spit at the top of the Wash. There is a field station
there belonging to Leeds University and it is used by many bird watchers
by Andy Colls (Chesterfield)
March 1997, a very small Sunfish,
mola, measuring only about 50 cm x 50 cm, was reported by Jon Makeham
from Looe, Cornwall., washed up dead and already scavenged. Large Sunfish
are usually reported in summer and small ones occasionally, notably off
large Sunfish, Mola mola, is netted by a fisherman off the
Butt of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, in September
on their sides is pretty normal for sunfish - I've heard kids climb on
and run across the huge specimens that exist in the tropics.
why do they do it?
just because they're such a low energy highly defended type of strategy
that it's not worth the effort staying upright.
listings with the earliest at the top
Sunfish are seen off
the coast of Penwith each year, the earliest is usually in July. This year
so far there have been two reports, one off Lamorna on May 14th and another
off Penzer Point on June 18th, is this another sign of global warming?
In 1999 there were 4 sightings between the 1st July and Sept.9th. all along
the south coast of Penwith. On 24th August 1997 the crew of a dive
boat belonging to the Penzance B.S.A.C returning from the Isles of Scilly
saw at least 12, so there were probably dozens if not hundreds between
the mainland and Scillies on that day.
Marine Wildlife Reports 1999 (by Ray Dennis)
of the Sunfish from off Cornish shores are frequent during the summer
months. In British seas they vary in size from 40 cm to nearly two
metres in length, but they can grow considerably larger. Almost all specimens
are spotted lying on their sides in the surface water. Some of the observations
are listed on the Seaquest
SW (Cornwall Wildlife Trust web pages).
mola, were spotted near St. Ives, Cornwall.
From: "Brian Stone (Rebus Media)" <Brian.Stone@rebusmedia.com>
A large Sunfish was
observed by myself and numerous excited holidaymakers in the channel outside
Polperro (Cornwall) harbour on August 2nd
this year. Diameter approx. 1.5m, swimming lazily on its side just below
the surface, I watched it for some 45 minutes before it (presumably) left.
The skin appeared to be badly scarred and pitted overall, but the fish
was not showing signs of obvious distress.
A Sunfish was observed
by myself, Frederick Biddulph, John Mortimer, and Gerald Allen, while fishing
west of Innishbofin, Connemara, Co Galway Ireland, on 29 Aug. 2000.
The fish was on its side and it seemed to be splashing it's dorsal
fin. It dived as the boat approached.
superb views of several close to St Ives Island a couple of weeks ago.
closest were just off Porthgwidden Beach. These were mostly swimming
upright but also at an angle and I don't remember any completely on their
sides. The combination of clear water, high waves and a raised vantage
point meant the whole fish was often clearly visible under the water.
presence of a Sunfish
was often indicated by gulls collecting around the surface. One was
observed clearly allowing Gulls to peck at its body -perhaps removing parasites.
Could it be that they swim on their sides at the surface in order to attract
birds for this purpose?
also frequently swam with the long dorsal fin one third to a half exposed
above the surface producing an effect like a small wavy shark fin.
This fin would occasionally be waved higher out of the water and they would
also push their nose clear of the water.
those who don't know these fish are large with a flat body shaped roughly
like a slightly elongated disk. They are greyish and have a long
fin above and below the body. The body on the ones I saw was perhaps
1.5 metres (5 feet) long and the fins more than 60 cm (2 feet) long.
I understand they can get much larger. They are apparently no good
to eat which, given how easy they would be to hunt, is just as well.
saw what I now know to be a Sunfish,
off the Pembrokeshire coast over the August
Bank Holiday of 1999.
observing Grey Seals and Choughs from the cliffs of Deer Park opposite
Skomer Island, SW Wales, when I saw a large grey / brown dorsal fin splashing
in the water. It then disappeared underwater but shortly afterwards,
a 'short, fat, grey surfboard with wings' appeared swimming nearby.
Intrigued, I followed the 'thing' along the coast watching it as it swam
very slowly just below the surface. It was much larger that the seals
I had been observing -I'd estimate it to at least 8 feet long (nearly 2.5
one I talked to could give a name to what I had seen and I soon forgot
about it until I saw a wildlife programme about sharks on the TV in December,
which included a brief tantalising shot of a 'Sunfish'. My mystery
(and lingering doubts about exactly what I had seen) was solved!
dived all around the world and seen many aquatic sights but nothing as
unearthly as the Sunfish!
an Ocean Sunfish on the 3rd of September
2000 about one mile off the coast situated
between Harlech and Barmouth (Cardigan Bay) in north Wales at first I saw
one of its fins of which i thought it was a piece of flotsam but it seemed
to be moving in circles so we went closer in the boat until we were
right next to it and turned the engines off we watched it for a couple
of minutes and at first I thought it was an injured Basking Shark that
had been in an accident with a boat propellor until today when we visited
the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire were
the had a plastic replica
"Roger Heginbotham" <email@example.com>
6 Aug. 2000 13:51:19 +0100
Smith's One-List/Cornish Wildlife
Subject: Re Ocean Sunfish
Malcolm Lee has given me
some observations from a local fisherman. These included the sighting
of five Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) seen off Port Gaverne in
Port Isaac Bay ) on 30.7/2000. We are gathering any records of this
species which seems to be increasing in numbers as well as its range in
space and through the months of the year.
Often these fishes lie close
to the surface, and are thought to be sick or just less active in our cool
(albeit warming) waters. Although they will often allow themselves
to be touched, or even lifted out of the water (as Raymond Dennis has described)
, at other times they will move off at astonishing speed. This quintet
was actually leaping out of the water, an activity well attested by a few
other observers at different times, but not mentioned in any published
account that I can find (I have not so far quizzed the Net). Any
sightings of these massive species and notes on its behaviour will be welcomed.
The Port Gaverne individuals were reckoned to be 4' long which would probably
be average for our waters. The world record size is probably 11 feet
long and 10 feet across the fins and the British record seems to be 6'
6" across the fins - but my information may be out of date. It is certainly
the heaviest of the bony fishes.
Incidentally it is called
an 'Ocean' Sunfish to distinguish it from the perch-like freshwater sunfishes
of North America. We do have another marine species, called the Truncated
Sunfish (Ranzania laevis) which is a very rare visitor to the
waters of the far SW of Britain.
Gulls often accompany Sunfish.
are they picking off the parasites?
One-List Digest 481
was seen today (9th August 2000) in South
Cardigan Bay, West Wales. It was about 1 mile offshore and off Ynys Lochtyn
headland.(near a village called Llangrannog - I can look up the OS Grid
reference if it would help)
It was identified by a skipper
on a visitor pleasure boat that was doing trips to see the resident Bottlenose
that live in this area. Incidentally Dolphins (with a calf) were seen in
the vicinity at the same time.
During our regular shore
based dolphin watches we have often seen Sunfish, but this is the first
one we've heard of this year.
Hope this is of interest.
Quay Dolphin Monitoring Group
a quick note to say that today I and some work friends saw a medium sized
a little smaller than a bread crate (60 cm x 60 cm). It was about a mile
off Caldey (Pembrokeshire, SW Wales) and it turned on its side as
if to look at us with its eye out of the water. We watched it for about
10 minutes and then left it to go on its way. Its the first unusual sighting
all summer around here unfortunately.
Thursday 24 August 2000
on a hot sunny day, whilst standing at the tip of St.
David's Head in Pembrokeshire with my two children we spotted something
floating just below the surface of the sea 16 metres (fifty feet) from
the shore. At first we thought it to be a seal but since it did not
break surface or make any apparent movement, assumed it to be flotsam.
However, after a fe wminutes we noticed it had moved closer to the rock
ledge on which we stood. We could now see it was a large fish roughly circular
in shape which was
lying on it's side. On occasion the sun caught it and it flashed in the
sun, though it was mostly grey in colour. The fish moved/floated to within
ten feet of the shore and we could now clearly see it's shape with a short
stubby tail and it's dorsal fin. It was the approximate size of a dust
bin lid, say 80 cm in diameter. The dorsal fin projected 15 cm (six inches)
from the water. We did not see the caudal fin but by now it was adopting
a more vertical position. The fish then actively swam away in a southwesterly
direction toward Ramsey Sound, we watched it's dorsal fin waving from side
to side as it moved. I took some photo's with my daughter's camera
which we have yet to develop. If you are interested (and if they
come out!) I'll scan and send them to you.
18 June 2000.
was seen in Poole Bay (about 1.5 miles
south of Bournemouth). The weather was very hot and sunny, with a
slight easterly wind and a gentle flood tide (i.e. running east north east).
The fish was approximately 50 cm overall length (visual estimate) and was
swimming in the direction of the current, at the surface with
dorsal fin exposed. It was clearly visible through the surface of
the water, which was quite clear. As it passed into the shadow of
the boat it dived, and was not seen again.
Three Sunfish were
seen from the Scillonian on its crossing to the Isles of Scilly this morning.
the following site has lots of reports. You can use the Search function
to find all entries.
One-List Digest 483
I was sailing past Dursey
Island, Co. Cork at the end of June when I saw a Sunfish.
We were positioned between the Bull and Cow Islands when we first spotted
its fin waving in the air. This was my first ever sighting.
It moved very slowly and seemed totally unbothered by our presence.
It was small compared to the reports I've read. I would guess about
a metre long, about the same (it seemed) in depth. I was particularly
struck by the eyes, which seemed large and more mammal-like.
On arrival in Dingle I asked
a local fisherman what I had seen and he told me it was a sunfish.
He said that they saw them occasionally offshore but had not known them
so close to land before. I have not seen any since although I live
and sail in this area all the time.
a 1 metre diameter Sunfish
has stranded (dead) on the shore at North Kessock, Inverness. The fish
is very fresh, have been seen alive yesterday in the area by a local. Scottish
Agricultural College Stranding Coordinator has been informed and will attend.
These unusual fish are being seen around Scottish waters more frequently.
A 4 kg Sunfish was
caught on rod and line from the shore at Shields Road (not sure of the
location) NE England. This report has not been verified.
was on a mackerel fishing/sighting seeing small
boat (with 8 others) about 1/2 mile out from Lyme Regis
harbour, Dorset, on Sunday 27th May 2001. The captain spotted what
he said was a Sunfish and (after pulling in the lines!) we spent about
5 minutes following it. The sea was rough so we couldn't get a good sighting
of the fish other than its fin although we could see that it was very approximately
around 60 - 90 cm (2-3 ft) long. The fin was around 20 cm long.
the description of how the sunfish moves from your website, I am sure the
captain was correct is his identification. The fish flapped away slowly
when we got close but soon stopped and went back to floating and flapping
its fin occasionally. Even when trying to evade us, it never went more
than a few feet below the surface.
I note your request for Mola mola sightings
wonder if you are aware
of the following:-
May 2001 1
Off Sennen SW3526
1 Gwennap Head SW368215
1 Mayon Cliff SW349260. Within 30 ft
at base of cliff below lookout
1 Off Mousehole SW470263. Small
only 12" to
1 From Scillonian III
at 1115 hrs (Would
be half way across by that
1 From Scillonian III
Probably in Runnelstone
July at least 9 Pentire Head
SW936814. Between Rumps and Mouls.
1 Hayle River mouth. SW554387. Breached in
Rock Pool. Released
back into river.
Report by Ray
the Isle of Wight
charter boat 'Sundance', skippered by Roger Bayzand (pic with Sunfish)
and the crew of nine from the Isle of Wight, were lucky enough to observe
a small Sunfish
in near flat calm conditions on29 July 2001.
Noticing the fin movement from a distance, then changing course to have
a closer look did not seem to spook the fish away. The decision was made
to carefully net the fish for closer inspection and to take photographs.
The fish demonstrated a change of pace when returned, by bolting into the
depths. Notice the dramatic change of colouring when aboard the boat, this
happened extremely quickly.
Jack Rushton with the Sunfish
Small Sunfish seen
near the Bucks (Lamorna, Cornwall) 8th July. Jumped out of water
a few times then seen cruising surface with fin up. Disappeared before
we could get in to photograph it.
Seaquest recorder Barry
Moreton has reported a record number of the Ocean
Mola mola, off Pentire Headland (east side of
the Camel Estuary), Cornwall. Within about 8 hours, whilst he was fishing
from land, he counted 48 in groups of two or three, Douglas
Herdson of the National Marine
Aquarium, who is compiling records of this species for the whole of
the British isles, says that 15 is the largest grouping of which
Hocking who has been keeping careful notes of seal
activity off the North Cliffs, has just given his notes to Cornwall Wildlife
Trust together with observations on Sunfish. He has noticed that
gulls - seemingly always immature Herring Gulls - frequently gather
around them. If the gulls attentions are too insistent, the
Sunfish will lunge at them, squirting water from its mouth! - and he has
a video to prove it. I can find no mention of this in the literature
or on the World Wide Web (Internet) - indeed in general there seem
to be more questions than answers at present, although it seems certain
that the Ocean Sunfish is becoming more frequent and extending its range
in British waters..
SW (Cornwall Wildlife Trust web pages)
Marine Aquarium, Plymouth
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 11:32:56 +0100
From: "Mike King" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
had an Ocean Sunfish off Pentire Head on the 8th September 2001.
It was being pecked at by three Herring Gulls. We thought at the time that
they would probably kill it. However after seeing last night's Blue
Planet it was probably only using them for a clean-up. Fascinating
Gloster Birder http://www.birder.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2001 22:30:03 +0100
From: "Shang-ri La" <email@example.com>
Sunfish , moonfish and gulls
Hocking reports seeing an Ocean Sunfish off Godrevy Head but close
inshore today. Is this the last one for season? Please report
any more sightings to Cornish Wildlife where they will be seen by Douglas
Herdson and Ray Dennis. This one had two seagulls nearby but was
not 'inviting' attention from them. Having just watched 'The Blue
Planet', I was fascinated to see the Sunfish 'inviting' a type
of moonfish to clean off their parasites, and then allowing gulls to perform
a similar service, as their bills can reach the places where the fish teeth
can't. A couple of weeks ago Terry and I submitted an account to
'Seaquest Newsletter' of the gulls off the North Cliffs doing exactly this
But what Terry has noted and nobody else seems to have recorded is that
when the fish have had enough attention they rebuff the gulls! And
he has a video showing the sunfish lunging and spitting at the gulls!!
short report to say North Devon - Ilfracombe - can claim a Sunfish
sighting in 2001.
We saw the telltale fine above the water, lazing in large circles just
off shore from our lounge window about 100 metres from the mouth of Ilfracombe
harbour. Our estimate of the size was about 1.5m fin tip to fin tip. A
wonderful experience to see for the first time a truly fascinating marine
just wanted to tell you that I have seen another Sunfish
from my window in Ilfracombe - almost a year to the date!
him (or her) on 31.7.02, it was midtide and a mixture of sun and cloud.
He was only 15 metres out from shore and was a good size- easily a metre,
possibly more. This time, instead of seeing just the dorsal fin as I did
last year, I was alerted to his presence by a group of young seagulls clustered
round something in the water. It was the sunfish, lying on his side so
showing me the huge 'sun' disc and both fins - but the seagulls didn't
scare him off. I would now agree with what I've read about birds cleaning
the fish of parasites. It would scare me with those big birds flying
at me, but he didn't mind a bit!
hung around for 10 minutes and was off again.
Blackford recorded seven Ocean
Sunfish in St Ives Bay, Cornwall, from
the west coming in on the rising tide, returning westward on the falling
fishing about a mile ESE of Bournemouth pier, Dorset, we saw an Ocean
Sunfish swimming slowly with its dorsal
fin out of the water. We followed it and observed it for several minutes
whereupon it slowly dived and was lost to sight. The fish was approx.'
1.5 metres tall. Is this a rare sighting for the Dorset coast?
My wife and I saw an Ocean
Sunfish on the morning of 13 September 2002 off the Pembrokeshire coast
It was a clear sunny day
and we were walking West on the cliff path from Abercastle and saw a slivery
grey light coloured flat fish about 2m long and 1-1.5m across (observed
it also through good binoculars). It was swimming on it's side on the surface
about 100m out from the cliffs.
At the time we had no idea
what it was but was fascinated because it did not appear to have a tail,
but had a long fin top and bottom (each side as it lay on the water) and
a small shark like fin on the side (or top when on the water). We
thought it even might have been injured until it turned upright to dive,
and then reappeared 50 metres away feeding or basking? After watching it
for more than 15 minutes, we realised it was busy & healthy.
We were puzzled by what
we had seen and after searching the internet last week, having seen our
first photo of one, we both agreed it was without doubt an Ocean Sunfish.
this be the last Sunfish report of the year?
Lawman reports an Ocean
Sunfish seen off Pendeen Watch, Cornwall.
Blackford reports an Ocean Sunfish in St Ives
Bay, Cornwall, on 25 October 2002.
An Ocean Sunfish
estimated to weigh 25 kg was spotted off the north coast of Jersey.
Blackford reports an Ocean
Sunfish in St Ives Bay, Cornwall.
It was about a metre long, and think it is the first for the year.
Sunfish of approximately 50 cm in length
was spotted at midday at Combe Martin Bay, nr Combe Martin, North Devon.
(SS 564 480)
fish was seen from rocks accessible only at low tide for a good 10 minutes
swimming on the surface on its side in 20 ft of water. It had its mouth
open whilst swimming slowly in large circles, coming within 15 ft of the
rock where we were standing. The day was warm and the sea very calm so
we had a very good view.
fish was observed by myself and two brothers whilst fishing, one of whom
had seen a Sunfish before and recognised it.
were seen off Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire . I saw one here in 2002 and
one off the Blasket Islands (Ireland) many years ago. A voluntary warden
on Skomer said about twelve had been seen this year.
spotted off Rhosneigr Anglesey UK on Saturday 26th July 2003 mid-afternoon
when we were mackerel fishing. It appeared
to be about 4 stones in weight and about 3 -3.5 feet long. First
time we had viewed one and have had difficulty in identifying what we had
seen. Dave touched it when it was along side the boat before it dived
down and surfaced further away. We did not wish to ask the local
fishermen what it was at the time in case they wanted to try to catch it.
Glad we have now identified it.
I spotted two Sunfish
on Tuesday at 7:00 pm while Mackerel fishing
just out of harbour at Abercastle, Pembrokeshire, SW Wales. They were both
just over 1 metre (3 feet) long and were basking on their side, occasionally
turning to put a fin in the air. The conditions were calm and they seemed
to be enjoying the evening sun. They were surrounded by seagulls but they
didnt seem to be worried by them or by our boat.
A small Ocean Sunfish,Mola
mola, approx 50 cm nose to tail, was encountered in rough water 1/2
mile north of Whitehills harbour, Scotland, this afternoon. This harbour
is near Banff in NE Scotland.
watching seabird migration from the observation point at Strumble Head,
Pembrokeshire during the afternoon of Saturday the 4th October 2003, a
group of ornithologists saw a solitary Sunfish,
was seen lying on its side fairly close inshore. Attention was drawn to
it by a Black-backed Gull who
appeared very interested in the fish. Those present with the expertise
knowledge of this species surmised that the gull may have been attempting
to rid the fish of parasites. During this day strong North to North Westerly
winds were recorded at this location.
this is from south-east Spain, Bob Kingdom
(Hull) reported the largest ever Sunfish
their diving group had ever seen, measuring about two metres long and they
estimate it would have taken about five people to lift it from the water.
We were out in our Canadian
Canoe and saw a small Sunfish - about two feet long between Porthgain
and Trevine (Pembrokeshire). We have heard of many sightings previously
in the area but not seen one personally. We identified it by its pronounced
fin protruding from the water and it allowed us to circle round it several
times very close for some excellent views with the sun shining through
the water onto it. The sea was full of jellyfish
at the time of all sizes -presumably it was feeding on these. It was not
at all bothered by our presence and eventually decided to swim down and
away from us under our canoe. We confirmed our suspicions that it was indeed
a Sunfish by checking this site
just sailed South through the Sound of Islay at about 12.30pm on Tuesday
27th July, in calm conditions, and set a course for the North end of Gigha
we spotted a strange fin 'flopping from side to side in the water. We spent
approximately 10 minutes following this fish. It did not seem overly concerned
with our presence and only moved away when we were really close, resurfacing
and carrying on its relaxed progress nearby. The fin appeared to be about
6 inches in length and not contributing to its progress through the water.
My wife who was observing the fish from the bow of our boat got the impression
of a fish of possibly 2 to 3 feet in length seen from above. difficult
to judge depth or body mass.
of us had seen such a motion before and on our return home have come to
the conclusion that we had seen a Sunfish.
would very much like to know whether this is a rare event or indeed if
the above description could point to a different identification
The Sunfish photograph
was taken on 7th August 2004 about half a
mile off Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. I spotted the Sunfish on the surface
and I have seen them in the same area before. Normally when approached
they swim towards the bottom at high speed. This time the Sunfish
swam towards the boat and even allowed me to touch it, it made no attempt
to swim away. It swam around the boat a few times and came back to the
swim platform again. I could see it had sea lice on its back and I guess
it was trying to get them removed. The fish appeared to be in good health,
a fantastic site to see.
mola, was washed up on the beach at West Runton, near Sheringham,
this fish is frequently seen off the south and western coasts of Britain
during the summer and autumn, sightings and strandings in the North Sea
are much less common.
was spotted between Swanage and Studland, Dorset, about half a mile offshore
at approximately 10.30 am.
It was no more than 60 cm in length and moving very slowly. No sign of
injury and happily swimming near the surface next to our motor boat on
one of the calmest days of the year so far.
Sunfish from Cornish Seas
yacht out of Lyme Regis, Dorset, took avoiding action to narrowly miss
on board a sight seeing boat travelling back from the Island of Staffa
off the Island of Mull, Argyll, Scotland. We were on a cruise boat run
by Tarus Mara, which runs tours to Fingal's Cave on Staffa, returning to
Ulva Ferry, when we spotted a Sunfish
swimming North West in Loch Tuach...(sea loch).
was approximately 1 metre in diameter and seemed very healthy, turning
on it's side to watch us as we came alongside, all passengers on the boat
witnessed this unusual fish, which was icing on the cake to such a glorious
sunny summers day.
fishing the mid channel rocks near St. Annes Head, Milford Haven, Pembrokshire
we spotted a Sunfish
at the top of the water. A couple of seagulls were watching it which drew
our attention to it. We motored past it to see what it was, as we brought
the boat around for a second look it must have swam down as we lost sight
estimate that the fish was approximately 1 metre across and light grey
in colour. At the time we did not know that it was a Sunfish.
- 26 August 2005
On the Hebridean Whale and
Dolphin Trustís yacht the Silurian, the crew seemed surprised by the number
of Sunfish around. This gave me the impression that they are not
normally seen around the Hebrides.
large metre long Sunfish made
the news by jumping into a small boat frisbee-style and scaring a young
child at Little Haven, Pembrokeshore, south Wales.
I had two separate Sunfish
sightings from Ardnamurchan Point, Argyll, Scotland, this September. They
were both within 500 metres of the Point. Both on sunny daysÖI donít know
if this is because they were easier to see with the sun reflecting from
them or if they were at the surface because it was sunny. One of the
flapping its fin out of the water, which attracted the attention of a Shag,
that then came along and pecked it.
caught a small Sunfish
(approx 50 cm length x 150 cm from end of fin to end of fin) off
Porthcurno beach in Cornwall . I first saw the fin flopping from
side to side in about one metre of water less than 4 metres from the shore.
Thinking it was in distress (it seemed to be caught by the surf and unable
to swim away from the beach), I paddled out to the fish and was able to
pick it up to examine it more closely. It was identified as a Sunfish
by another person on the beach as I had no idea what this strange looking
tail-less beast actually was.
a routine aerial survey for marine wildlife off the most south-western
tip of Cornwall, researchers from the University
of Exeter School of Biosciences, the Marine
Conservation Society (MCS) and Cornwall
Wildlife Trust counted 19 Sunfish,
mola, in two hours.
surprising discovery of an Ocean Sunfish,
mola, from the Baltic coast
Sweden, means this fish must have navigated through the narrow parts of
the Kattegat. It was a smallish specimen with a total length of 60 cm.
large 20 kg Ocean Sunfish,
mola, was washed up dead on
the north Kent coast.
The height of this round fish was measured at 98 cm (including the fins).
: 20.8 kg/45.75 lb
: 760 mm (nose to tail)
: 980 mm (fin to fin)
: 150 mm
: 51deg 22.011min N
001deg 03.854min E
Mola mola, was
seen on alive off Porthgwarra,
Cornwall. Is this the last record of the year
for this species?
the early evening, we saw six Ocean
Mola mola, just
off shore at Slea Head east of Great Blasket Island, County Kerry, Southern
2007 12:50 pm
east with the tide 200 metres off Ventnor
in the calmer water a two metres long Ocean
Mola mola, swam
so close to the rib that I was able to reach down and stroke it. It felt
soft to the touch. The Sunfishappeared
to nibble at the growths on the boat. Its large eyes just under the the
surface of the sea were looking at me.
by Stuart Damien-Philips (Harbourmaster, Ventnor)
August 2007 11:45 am
from MS Oldenburg,
outbound from Lundy Island,
approx 2 km to the east of Lundy, one Ocean
passed us heading back towards the island.
300 metres east of Ilfracombe
pier, north Devon, swimming east.
August 2007 - approx. 12.30 pm North
had kayaked about two-thirds of the way down Woolacombe
Bay (heading south) when I saw what looked liked a sea bird in trouble
- one wing flapping listlessly up and down. The tide was far out and had
just turned to come back in. Headed over to get a better look and saw it
was a fin, not a wing. The Ocean Sunfish,
mola, was upright in the
water and I could see the shape of the top of its body - perhaps about
two to three feet in length, grey in colour. It slipped away after a very
short time and the fin disappeared under water.
August 2007 - approx. 2:00 pm
was kayaking along Woolacombe
Bay and was about to turn around at Putsborough when I saw thin fin flapping
up and down in the water about 10-15 metres away. I made my way slowly
towards it and got close and realised it was an Ocean
lying on its side. It was floating on top of the water and I pulled along
shoreside of it. I could see its eye clearly looking at me, and its mouth
open wide. We just sat there looking at each other for about a minute or
so. It drifted quite close to my boat and then turned the right way up,
went down a bit into the water, and came up again towards the back of my
boat, nearer to me. It turned on its side again and looked at me, and was
now close enough to touch. After a few seconds it turned itself up, sank
down and swam under me and away into the water. It measured about 1 to
2 feet across, and its fin was under a foot long, so perhaps it was a young
& 14 January 2008
have a report from Mr Meale
who spotted what appears to be a Ocean
Mola mola, found
on Eccles Beach,
Norfolk on 5 January 2008.
A further report in the EDP published on Monday 14January
2008 shows a picture of a Sunfish
found on Sea
Palling Beach, Norfolk.
was windsurfing off Abersoch,
Lleyn peninsula, north Wales, this afternoon and sighted a Ocean
Mola mola, around
3 feet in length, maybe a little more, with its dorsal fin breaking the
surface, only a few 100 meters from shore.
Mola mola, was
seen at Marazion, south Cornwall.
sure I saw an Ocean Sunfish,
mola, of the Jurassic coast, Dorset.
I was one of four kayaking along the foot of Bindon
Hill (between Mupe Rocks and Lulworth Cove) in water of a moderate
swell with some clapotis coming back of the rocks.
could see a darker form in the water ahead of me (I had no idea it was
a fish at this time) and as I approached I obviously scared the creature,
which with much splashing appeared to turn from it's horizontal plane to
a vertical plane and dived deep to my right. I saw the fin amongst
the splashing and as I glided past saw the fish immediately it submerged.
I'd estimate it to be 60-75 cm across the fins and of a deep grey colour.
I could see it dive for probably 3 metres before it vanished.
sailing from Poole to Yarmouth on Friday, about a mile off the Needles
sighted what first appeared to be flotsam flopping in and out of the water,
I realised it looked more like a black fin so we turned back for another
look, I recognised it as a Sunfish,
we closed, didnít want to get too close but took a couple of passes for
all aboard too see, went to get camera for third pass but the sunfish had
gone, dived I think. The fin was approximately 15 cm long and Iíd estimate
the fish to be about 60-70 cm, difficult to be sure as it was angled to
the surface not flat.
paddling of the coast of Co. Antrim, just North of Black Head we spotted
At first it was just a fin, then it seems to wave at us but on our approach
it dived out of sight. After a short time it reappeared and as we
approached much more cautiously, we
able to observe it for several minutes. It was about two feet in length
and not at all put out by our presence.
were surfing at Putsborough
Sands, north Devon, at the back of the waves waiting for some bigger
ones to come when I saw a fin sticking out of the water it was about 8
to 9 inches long. I paddled over to see what it was. I got about
5 foot away from it and it dived straight to the bottom. Its body
was about 30 inches round maybe slightly more, its body was a greyish colour.
I had a big grin on my face all day; amazing. And the surf was really good
out fishing in my boat from Fraserburgh,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland on Saturday at about 14.00
hours, I spotted a Sunfish,
mola, about 0.75 of a mile from the beach.
It was approximately 2 feet in diameter and seemed to be swimming south.
Its dorsal fin
flapping above the surface and it was spouting water into the air like
3 August 2011
saw a Sunfish,
on the surface about six miles south of Hastings,
East Sussex The sea conditions were calm and I noticed a fin protruding
from the surface, with a Fulmar sitting
nearby. We approached slowly and I got a look at the fish, which I estimate
at being one metre in length. I went to the front of the boat for a clearer
view but spooked the fish and watched it dive straight down.
spotted an Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola,
off Berry Head (Brixham)
It was swimming on the surface and I approached thinking it looked like
an injured fish due to its unusual swimming style and one of our group
identified it was approximately 60 cm across. We approached it in kayaks
after a couple of strokes it swam down from the surface. It was spotted
in a similar area about ¾ hr later (could not confirm it was the
same one as we did not get close enough but we could see it on the surface
with it fin up). A great day as we had already seen Dolphins
was diving on the wreck of the "Betsy
Anna", in Poole Bay.
The wreck is at about 25 m and positioned roughly at 50
37 00N, 01 48 86W. It was approx' 20.30
in the evening when I spotted the Ocean
Mola mola, at this depth
and it appeared to be about 0.5m (18") across.
say that I was excited to see this fish is an understatement as I have
been diving since 1999
and this is the first one I've ever seen! Maybe it's because the sea
temperature is very warm at the moment, my computer was reading 18
°C last night and made for a very relaxing
took a 15 minute boat trip round the harbour at Clovelly,
north Devon, and saw two fins swimming nearby. The pilot said they
and turned the boat around to stay with them. We had never heard
of them before but other visitors were very excited about the sitings.
had the pleasure of a Sunfish,
mola, swimming along side the boat.
Now heres the best bit our position was 11 miles SNE (70 degrees) from
South Gare on
/ 000.47,00 in the North Sea. We first
saw it at about 1 metre depth about 8 metre away from the boat it came
towards the boat and closer to the surface its fin just breaking thru then
swam towards the bow and away size wise it would have been about 70 cm
of us, Richard Millington and
myself, were scanning the sea off the beach at Salthouse,
on the north Norfolk coast this afternoon for auks, divers and other seabirds.
At around 1250, I picked up the unmistakable shape of an Ocean
Mola mola, fin, some 250
metres offshore, moving east, through the relatively calm sea (a slight
swell on the rising tide, with the wind coming from the SE). The fin was
perhaps 1.5 feet to 2 feet long (hard to estimate, but certainly we both
felt sure it was well over a foot long) and the fish made rather rapid
progress eastwards, coming a little closer to the shore as it passed by.
We both watched the Sunfish
through both binoculars and telescopes and, very occasionally, the fish's
body could be seen close to the surface of the water.
rare Sussex sighting of a Sunfish
sighted a Sunfish,
mola, while diving today off
East Sussex. We were approximately 500 metres off the long groyne at the
easterly end off Seaford Beach in approximately 10 metres of water. The
weather was mixed sunshine and clouds which a moderate sea state (1 to
1.5 metre waves). The fish was probably 1 metre from tip of fin to tip
of fin and appeared to be in good health.
mola, was seen in Dover
out kayaking with my daughter Chloe to the right of Greve De Lecq bay my
daughter noticed a fin flapping about 20 meters away just off the headland.
We approached with caution thinking it may be a juvenile shark and were
surprised to see a Sunfish,
mola, of about 2 foot and a big beady
black eye staring at us whilst it happily caught some sun. It was 28 degrees
that afternoon so not surprising. Also there was a lot of jellyfish in
the area at the time, which I now know to be its favourite food. It came
to the kayak and appeared to be happy following us and knocking itself
against it to my daughters delight. I guess looking at the reviews he was
trying to rid himself of parasites but we didnít realise at the time. We
kayaked alongside for a good 10 minutes before he disappeared into the
depths. This was a great experience and Iím gutted I didnít have my camera.
Note to take out in future at all times!
son (38) and I (66) were walking on the coastal path between Goodwick
and Strumble Head on the Pembroke coast just due north of Penfathach bay
at around 12.00 noon on Sunday. We saw a Sunfish,
mola, floating about 10 metres off
shore. Unfortunately my camera is just a point and shoot Nikon so did not
bother to photograph it but we we able to observe it through binoculars
for about 5 minutes. We could clearly see the dorsal fins and head.
originally assumed it might be a dead ray floating on the surface but it
was moving in a pretty desultory manner and fitted the discriptions exactly.
of the Sunfish,
mola, are always less frequent on
the North Sea coasts than off the south and west coasts for this oceanic
traveller. So a Sunfish
28 inches long and with a height of 18 inches (excluding fins) washed ashore
dead on Sandilands
Beach, Lincolnshire was unexpected. The beach is very shallow with sandbanks
so that sometimes even the Lesser Weever,
gets stranded when the tide goes out.
out walking the dogs late morning yesterday on Sandilands beach in Lincolnshire,
which is about 5 miles south of Mablethorpe and 13 miles north of Skegness.
It was a wet day and there was a high tide and the sea was choppy with
the wind coming from the south east. Jimmy enjoys searching for fish
in shallow water but I think even he got a shock when he came across such
a large fish. It is 28 inches in length, 18 inches deep at the widest
point and exactly three feet from dorsal fin tip to lower fin tip.
I estimate that it weighs about 5/6 stone. The fish which I later
identified as a Mola mola (Sunfish)
appeared to be newly dead. The pictures show that it has a couple
of cuts on its body. I have never seen one before and I understand
that it is rare to find these fish in the North Sea."
mola, measuring approximately 45 cm
by 35 cm, excluding fins, was found on Old
beach at about 3.30 pm.
I was not sure what it was until I googled it later in the evening. It
was still there the following morning (c.9.45
am) and, according to another walker, had
been there since at least this morning.
found a dead 40 -50 cm diameter Sunfish,
mola, high up on the strand
line on Skegness
beach on Sunday. The eye was missing but otherwise the fish was not attacked.
A real surprise to see such a fish. On the same beach there were numerous
- say 20 to 30 in number about 10 cm tip to tip.
had the luck to see a small Sunfish,
mola, swimming right next to our boat
about a mile off Grosnez Point Jersey
on Friday around 16.00 hrs.
was about half a meter across and was swimming slowly with one fin flopping
along above the surface. we had just seen quite a few jellyfish."
large numbers of jellyfish
recorded washed up and in the shallow seas around the British Isles, there
were also numerous sightings of the Ocean
which feeds on jellyfish and other medusa. The
Sunfish was caught off Dorset.
mola, washed up on the shore at Whitstable
the last three years we have seen multiple very large Sunfish,
mola, off East Chesil,
fish have been inshore and far exceed the 1.5 metres in size, there is
more than one on most of the large spring tides in July which coincides
with the largest numbers of jellyfish that we
see. We have been able to see as many as three on a single tide."
of Sunfish Records (CD-ROM only)
Information wanted: Please
send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it,
how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to
All messages will receive
Project EMail Glaucus@hotmail.com.