Surigao fishermen catch giant ocean sunfish

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Oct) – Fishermen in a coastal village here caught a rare giant fish early morning Tuesday, which awed residents owing to the fish’s size.

Energito B. Balaba, law enforcement officer of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-13), said it was an ocean sunfish, also known as Mola mola.

He told MindaNews the fish was caught by fishermen in Barangay Ipil and brought them ashore.

Balaba said the gigantic fish, which weighed between 600 and 800 kilos, was already dead when he and colleagues arrived at Sitio San Roque of the said village.

Dominador Maputol, of the Fisheries Production Division of BFAR, said the fish was 2.165 meters long and 1.322 meters high.

Maputol said they never allow the fishermen to cannibalize the fish for fear that it might put them in danger.

Barangay chair Andrea L. Yangzon said the fishermen caught the fish using nets, then used a hook on its mouth to drag it to the beach.

“They caught it accidentally, not knowing what kind of fish it was,” she said.

Yangson said the fish was already weak before the fishermen brought it ashore.

BFAR officials said the ocean sunfish is the heaviest known bony fish in the world.

Lolong Bernadez, a 69-year-old fisherman of Sitio San Roque, said it was his first time to see that kind of sea creature since he started fishing as a young boy.

“We didn’t know what it was, it was so big and heavy,” he said in the dialect.

Bernadez, along with the other fishermen, said he wanted to get a piece of its flesh, but BFAR personnel told them not to eat it because it might harm them.

“It’s not advisable to eat this kind of fish because it has similarities with the butete or puffer fish,” Energito B. Balaba said.

But Wikipedia said “the flesh of the ocean sunfish is considered a delicacy in some regions, the largest markets being Taiwan and Japan.” All of its parts, from the fins to the internal organs, are reportedly used in cuisine, and some parts even used for traditional medicine.

BFAR officials dissected the fish and buried it along the beach.

Balaba said that when they dissected the fish, they di not see foreign objects like plastics inside the stomach.

The BFAR has not categorized the ocean sunfish as endangered.