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Giant Sunfish Released from Fishers' Net

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A tuna fishing vessel operating in the offshore waters of Pakistan safely released a giant sunfish that was entangled in its fishing net. After a struggle of about 20 minutes, the fishermen successfully freed this nearly six-foot-long sunfish weighing nearly 1,000 pounds.

The fishermen were trained by WWF on how to release big marine species like this—often whale sharks and turtles—as part of their bycatch reduction program. In the past two years, 12 whale sharks, three mantas, 10 rays, and hundreds of marine turtles have been successfully released. And now a sunfish!

Sunfish are the world’s heaviest bony fish. This particular type of sunfish appears to be a southern sunfish, Mola ramsayi, making this the first sighting of the species off the Pakistani coast. This species resembles the ocean sunfish Mola mola, but differs mainly in the shape and structure of the tail.

Sunfish are occasionally caught in offshore waters of Pakistan by fishermen, mainly in gillnets. This release is a rare event in this part of the world—the only other reports of sunfish releases come from the Mediterranean and off the coast of California.