Big sunfish caught, released into sea

Published January 1, 2015
Pakistani fishermen in the Arabian sea.—AFP/File
Pakistani fishermen in the Arabian sea.—AFP/File

KARACHI: A 1.8-metre-long sunfish that accidentally got entangled in fishing net off Ormara, Balochistan, was safely released by fishermen recently.

The sunfish weighed about 450kg and was released after a struggle of about 20 minutes, according to officials of the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P).

They credited the safe release of the fish to Iqrar Mohammad, a fisherman who along with his crew was operating a fishing vessel about 55km south of Ormara.

Ocean sunfish are considered to be the heaviest bony fish in the world. They can achieve a weight of 2.3 tons and a maximum length of 3.3 metres.

Two species of the sunfish — ocean sunfish (also called Mola mola) and slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis) — have previously been reported from Pakistan.

“Sunfish have an unusual shape; it resembles a fish head having a tail and its main body is flattened laterally. That’s why it is called ‘Kup Paggas’ in Balochi and ‘Adhi Mangar’ in Sindhi, meaning ‘half shark’,” said Mohammad Moazzam Khan, who works as technical adviser on marine resources with the WWF-P.

The sunfish released by the fishermen possibly belonged to the species called southern sunfish (Mola ramsayi), he said, adding that if this was correct the species was being reported for the first time from Pakistan.

Under the Pakistan Fish Inspection and Quality Control Act, 1997 and Rule, 1998, there is a ban on export and domestic consumption of ocean sunfishes and their relatives because their flesh may be toxic, according to Mr Khan.

Occasionally caught off Pakistan, the sunfish mainly feed on jellyfish and other invertebrates. They are not consumed in most parts of the world except in Japan, Taiwan and China where all parts of the sunfish are eaten.

In Pakistan, they are used in production of fish meal.

According to the WWF-P, 12 whale sharks, three mantas, 10 rays and hundreds of marine turtles have been successfully released by fishermen in seawater over the past two years.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2015

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