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STAFF REPORT – On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, some residents of Canaries had more questions than answers when a large “strange” fish washed ashore their beach.
Several residents submitted photos and videos of the fish to St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in attempt to find out what it was.
And Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer Thomas Nelson had the answer.
He identified the creature as an ocean sunfish, also known as moon fish, and scientifically as Mola mola.
“It is not uncommon to the tropics. We have seen it before,” Nelson told SNO.
“Research has shown only two species of this Genus Mola, so the greater likelihood is the Mola mola,” he added.
According to Wikipedia, the ocean sunfish is the “heaviest known bony fish in the world”, and an average adult weighs between 247 and 1,000 kg.
Nelson noted that the one in Canaries reportedly weighed over 150 pounds (68 kg) — a “juvenile”.
“Actually the maximum published weight, according to the IUCN Redlist, is as much as 2.3 tons,” the fisheries official pointed out.
Nelson went on to say that in the past, local fishermen have reported landing it in their day’s catch. However, he said the sunfish is not known to be eaten or “commercially important” in St. Lucia.
“Actually, I do not know of a fish species that is not edible. It is really based on culture. So culturally, it is not generally targeted or eaten locally,” Nelson said.
The fish was disposed of at the Deglos sanity landfill shortly after it was discovered.
Meanwhile, Nelson expressed gratitude to several persons who responded to the scene at Canaries beach that day.
“The Department of Fisheries would like to thank Rita Straughn, Fisheries extension officer for Canaries, the fishers of Canaries who reported the incident and assisted with the disposal, and the officers from the Canaries Police Station who helped with transportation for the adequate disposal of the carcass at the Deglos sanitary landfill,” Nelson said.