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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Appetite for Destruction

From Lianhe Zaobao, June 30 2007:

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse.

Also known as the Ocean Sunfish, the Mola mola is the world's largest bony fish. It possesses 16 vertebrae, the fewest of any known fish. Growing to a gargantuan size of 10.5 feet (3.2 m) in height, a length of 11 feet (3.3 m), and weighing up to 5100 lbs (2300 kg), this oddly-shaped fish is totally harmless to humans. The Mola mola feeds primarily on jelly fish, which it sucks in through its mouth — actually a fused beak.

In between deep dives to 2000 feet (609 m), the Mola mola basks horizontally on the surface, nearly motionless, to thermally recharge.

Ocean Sunfish are gorgeous to behold. Curious towards divers, these gentle giants effortlessly glide through the open oceans in search of food.

In fact, the sheer size (and "bonyness") of the Mola Mola render it a greater hazard to shipping than to divers and swimmers.

On 13th October 1998, staff of the Australian Museum were called to examine an Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola, that was found stuck on the bulbous bow of the cement carrier, MV Goliath, as it tied up to the wharf in Sydney.

The huge fish, which weighed approximately 1400 kg was removed from the bow of the ship by the Sydney Waterways Authority. The fish became stuck on the bow off Jervis Bay, New South Wales. It caused the speed of the ship to slow from 14 to 11 knots. The skin of the Ocean Sunfish was so rough it wore the ship's paint work back to the bare metal.

Shipping traffic is not the only threat to the Mola mola; plastic bag litter, which, in the water resemble jellyfish, are often mistakenly consumed by the Ocean Sunfish. The unfortunate fish either choke or slowly starve to death when the plastic bags block their intestines.

But another threat — growing much faster — looms: Ocean Sunfish are increasingly being harvested for markets in Asia, where it is considered a delicacy. Often found basking on the surface, much like the Whale Shark, the Mola mola present an easy target for fishermen.

Ocean Sunfish are considered a commercial species in Japan.

They grow to the size of a car and can weigh as much as a large SUV.

As with the killing of Whale Sharks, even juveniles are not spared.

While the flesh of the Mola mola contains neurotoxins similar to the pufferfish (which is served in Japan as fugu), it exists in smaller, less deadly, concentrations. Perhaps therein lies its gastronomical appeal.

How long will it be before this creature becomes endangered?

Oh, yes, don't forget to buy a copy of the Lianhe Zaobao for the recipes to this wonderful and amazing fish.

Related posts:

Whale Sharks
Cultural immersion


Blogger codfish said...

O.M.G. They really will never get it, will they? I truly despair.


July 02, 2007 6:19 AM  

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