mammoth sunfish, a species classed as vulnerable and not eaten
in Europe, was 3.2 metres (10.5 feet) long, 2.9 metres (9.5
feet) wide, Enrique Ostale said in an interview on Thursday. The
find, which he was called to assess, was a record for the area
which, due to tides and sunfish migratory patterns, has no
shortage of such encounters.
"We tried to put it on the 1,000-kg (2,204.6-lb) scale but it
was too heavy. It would've broken it," said Ostale, who heads
Seville University's Marine Biology Lab in the Spanish enclave
of Ceuta on the north coast of Africa.
"Based off its corpulence and compared with other catches, it
must've weighed around 2 tonnes (4,409 lb)."
The fish was first isolated in an underwater chamber attached to
the boat before being lifted aboard using a crane, where it
stayed for a few minutes while Ostale and his fellow biologists
took measurements, photographs and DNA samples.
With dark grey skin, rounded grooves in its flanks and a large,
prehistoric-looking head, this particular specimen was likely a
mola alexandrini, one sub-species of the mola sunfish genus,
which sports a distinctively stub, scalloped back fin.
"I was stunned. We'd read about such individuals ... but never
thought we'd actually touch one day," Ostale said.
"But it was also stressful: you're on a boat in the middle of
the water, there's a crane moving huge weight, a live animal. We
couldn't waste a moment and had to avoid accidents."
But the fish was removed and returned to the water smoothly,
both on Oct. 4, to the relief of fishermen and scientists
aboard, who watched as the creature vanished switfly into the
700-metre depths of its home.
(Reporting by Miguel Gutierrez, Writing by Clara-Laeila Laudette;
Editing by Richard Chang)
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