Friday, June 04, 2010

Sunfish in the Strait

An unusual visitor from far-off seas washed up on a beach on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, north of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, Friday, June 4.

A sunfish, or common mola, estimated as weighing around 1000 pounds, attracted attention from residents at Vista Road and local wildlife and fisheries officers. The fish lay in the incoming surf near the Hoko River estuary, to the west of Kydaka point, on the public-access beach.

The fish is usually found in the south Pacific. Bill Riedel, of Vista Road, said the fish was probably seven feet long, five feet wide and 18 inches through the body. He said that these fish weren't usually seen in the Strait except during unusual weather patterns and warmer water conditions.

Natural Resources Enforcement officer Bill "Tuna" Williams, of Neah Bay Fisheries, and Corey Peterson, of State Fish and Wildlife, dropped by to examine and photograph the fish, partly from personal interest as well as to report the sighting to the Makah Tribal Biologist.

Mahone said h'ed never seen a sunfish in the area before. There was no evidence what might have killed the fish, which showed little damage except for a few streaks of blood on the fins.

Sunfish, related to pufferfish and porcupinefish, are commonly found in the tropical and temperate oceans. They have few natural threats, but are sometimes preyed upon by sea lions, sharks and orcas.

Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish. This makes them vulnerable to choking on plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish when floating in the water.

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