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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Jonah and the... Sunfish? 4,400-Pound Sunfish Stuns Researchers After Unbelievable Catch

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Here there be dragons: The ocean depths have always held mysteries, and with cases like this one popping up, it’s no wonder that people over the ages have believed in creatures of fantastical size.

But today we have ways of capturing the mysterious — if only for a moment — and proving to others that these rare creatures do exist and ensure they don’t just become big fish stories.

One particular sunfish of unusual size was located in the Spanish territory of Ceuta, near Morocco. The sunfish was found because it had become tangled in some fishing nets.

While the sunfish is not a type of fish that is eaten in the area, the fishermen who were after tuna knew they’d found something unusual, and they contacted Seville University.

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On Oct. 4, Enrique Ostale — marine biologist and head of the university’s marine biology lab in Ceuta — arrived, and the massive fish was lifted into the light.

He was stunned.

“When we arrived there, the feeling was of astonishment,” Ostale said in a translated interview with Reuters.

“On one hand, we couldn’t believe our luck because we’d read books and articles about the dimensions that a sunfish can have, but we didn’t know we’d be able to watch it and touch it ourselves.”

The area is known for being along the migratory pathway of sunfish, and while other big fish had been spotted before, a fish of this size was certainly unusual.

“It’s normal to see large fishes — but not this big,” Ostale continued. “According to the bibliography, this one could weigh up to 2,000 kilos — what we know for sure is that the 1,000-kilo scale didn’t work.

“It made a mistake and it was about to break. So, looking at other studies and comparing sizes, it could weigh 2,000 kilos.”

The giant fish measured 10.5 feet long and 9.5 feet wide. They’ll never know just how much it weighed, but the video is worth 1,000 words — it certainly looks like it could weigh somewhere around 2,000 kilos (4,409 pounds).

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The researchers had to work quickly to take the measurements, photos and DNA samples so they wouldn’t unnecessarily stress the fish. There were many factors to take into consideration during the brief encounter.

“We had to deal with the situation, to evaluate dangers because we were in the middle of the sea with two boats, a crane, the weight and mainly because it is a live animal … We had to take the data we needed as quickly as possible,” he continued, according to a translation by WKRC-TV.

Once the fish had been examined and lowered back into the water, it once again disappeared into the depths.

Based on the physical characteristics the fish displayed, the experts agreed that the specimen had been a Mola alexandrini, also called the “southern sunfish” or “bump-head sunfish” for self-explanatory reasons. The species is considered vulnerable.

While this may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these researchers, we have the technology to enjoy the amazing find from other parts of the world — and these sightings certainly bring the biblical story of Jonah to life.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking