Marine biologist Enrique Austal couldn’t believe his luck when he saw a huge sunfish that had been called in for evaluation after a tuna fishing boat found it trapped in its nets off the Mediterranean coast of Ceuta earlier this month.
The mammoth fish – a species classified as endangered and not eaten in Europe – is 3.2 meters long and 2.9 meters wide, a record for the region in which it lives, Enrique Austal told Reuters on Thursday (14). Sunfish, the species itself is not rare.
But Austal, head of the Marine Biology Laboratory at the University of Seville in Ceuta, Spain, said the fish in question was too heavy for the one-ton scale, which almost broke under its own weight.
“Looking at other studies and comparing sizes, it must have weighed about two tons,” he said.
The fish was initially isolated in an underwater chamber attached to the boat before being hoisted aboard by a winch, where it remained for a few minutes while Austal and his fellow biologists took measurements, pictures and took DNA samples.
With dark gray skin, rounded edges on its sides, and a large, prehistoric head, this particular specimen is likely an Alexandrine mola, a subspecies of the genus of the molefish, which has a distinctly tortuous hind fin.
“We couldn’t believe our luck because we read books and articles about the size of a sunfish, but we didn’t know we would be able to see and touch it ourselves,” Austal said.
He added that he was also stressful: “We had to deal with the situation and assess the risks because we were in the middle of the sea with two boats and a crane and the weight and because it’s basically a live animal… We had to get the data we needed as quickly as possible.”
But the extraction of the fish and its return to the water, which took place on October 4, proceeded unhindered, to the relief of the fishermen and scientists on board, who saw the creature disappear into the 700-meter depths that are their home. .
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