Published On: Wed, Dec 31st, 2014

A giant Sunfish spotted off the Ormara, Balochistan coast

Staff Report
KARACHI: In a rare event, a tuna fishing vessel operating in the offshore waters along Ormara, Balochistan coast released a giant sunfish which became entangled in their fishing net. This 1.8 meter long sunfish weighed approximately 450 kg was released after a struggle of about 20 minutes. While operating in the offshore waters about 55 km south of Ormara, fisherman Iqrar Muhammad observed this giant fish entangled in the net. Taking necessary precautions to ensure that fish was not harmed, he supervised the safe release this giant fish.
Ocean sunfish are considered to be the heaviest known bony fish in the world. It can achieve a weight of about 2.3 tons and the maximum size of these gigantic fish can be up to 3.3 m in length. Two species of sunfish i.e. ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis) have been previously reported from Pakistan. Sunfish have an unusual shape that resembles a huge fish head to which a tail is directly attached. That is the reason that it is called “Kup Paggas” in Balochi and “Adhi Mangar” in Sindh meaning “half shark”. Sunfish mainly feed on jellyfishes and other invertebrates.
Sunfish are occasionally caught from offshore waters of Pakistan by fishermen mainly in gillnet. Since sunfish are not consumed in Pakistan, these are usually landed and used for fishmeal production. The sunfish released by the fishermen possibly belong to a species called southern sunfish (Mola ramsayi) which is reported for the first time from Pakistan coast. This species resembles with ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and differs mainly in the shape and structure of the tail.
Sunfish are not generally consumed in most parts of the world except in Japan, Taiwan and China where all parts of the sunfish including entrails are consumed and used in local cuisine. Under Pakistan Fish Inspection and Quality Control Act, 1997 and Rule, 1998, there is a total ban on export and domestic consumption of ocean sunfishes and their relatives because sometimes their flesh may be toxic.
Rab Nawaz, Director WWF-Pakistan lauded the efforts of the fishermen for releasing entangled sunfish which may be first effort of such a kind in the Indian Ocean. He pointed out that there are reports of release of sunfish in waters of California and in the Mediterranean but there is no such record of release of sunfish in other parts of the world.
He said that in order to ensure protection of the marine biodiversity especially to save megafauna (whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks and rays and sunfishes) WWF-Pakistan has initiated an awareness programme for the fishermen and coastal communities.

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