KARACHI: A tuna fishing vessel operating in offshore waters along Ormara Balochistan coast released a giant sunfish that became entangled in their fishing net.
It is rare incidents entangled fish are released with good gestures. This 1.8 meter long sunfish weighing approximately 450 kilogrammes (kg) was released after a struggle of about 20 minutes.
Operating in the offshore waters about 55 km south of Ormara, Nakhuda 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 of the fish.
Ocean sunfish are considered to be the heaviest known bony fish in the world. It can achieve a weight of about 2.3 tonnes and the maximum size of these gigantic fish can be up to 3.3 meter 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 it is called ‘Kup Paggas’ in Balochi and ‘Adhi Mangar’ in Sindh meaning ‘half shark’. Sunfish mainly feeds 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 was 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 World Wildlife (WWF-Pakistan) lauded the efforts of the fishermen for releasing entangled sunfish, which might be first effort of such a kind in Indian Ocean. He pointed out there were reports of release of sunfish in waters of California and in the Mediterranean but there was no such record of release of sunfish in other parts of the world.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan Technical Adviser (Marine Fisheries) WWF-Pakistan pointed out 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. Fishermen have been trained to release enmeshed megafauna and in the past two years 12 whale sharks, 3 mantas, 10 rays and hundreds of marine turtles have been successfully released by the fishermen.
Release of this ocean sunfish by fishermen is a good omen and will helpful protection of other species and marine biodiversity in the future.
January 01, 2015