When one sees a dorsal fin out on the water, only the calm and the eagle-eyed don’t immediately think “shark.” So it was with a group of paddleboarders who came across a sunfish about the size of a car off Laguna Beach in California.
Known as the mola mola, the giant or ocean sunfish which Rick German and his friends discovered could have been nine foot long according to them, as their paddleboards were about 14 feet in length.
“I wasn’t scared because I knew what it was,” German told CBS News. “It looks like a mutilated alien shark that got bit in half.”
The heaviest vertebrate fish found globally, the mola mola can reach 10 feet in length and weigh 5,000 pounds. At a young age, its back fin stops growing and instead folds in towards itself, creating a kind of rudder that also tilts the fish’s body at an angle.
“I just thought it was kind of neat this fish is hanging out in an area where it’s totally protected and safe,” German told NBC News. “We hung out with it for probably 30 minutes. Eventually, it just dropped down below the surface.”
As it happened, German is the founder of a non-profit dedicated to ocean conservation, and given the fact that most of America’s largest news companies came out to interview him, he wasted no airtime in getting the message out that the tropical-dwelling mola is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, and needs help from us to recover so that more paddleboarders can enjoy these sensational experiences.
Dr. Matthew Wheaton posted an up-close and personal video on Instagram of the encounter, which you can take a look at below.
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