PHOTOS: Possible ‘Ocean Sunfish’ seen swimming off Burien’s Three Tree Point


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Resident Kathy Anderson recently shared these photos, of what is believed to be a non-native – and possibly tropical – ‘Ocean Sunfish’ swimming off Burien’s Three Tree Point neighborhood recently (click images to see larger versions):

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“Has anyone seen this fish swimming about TTP the past few weeks?” Kathy asked. “I’ve never seen one in our local waters before. We saw its fin sticking out of the water alongside a seagull just off the end of the point this evening. We came within a foot and he didn’t swim away. He looked up at us and stayed at the surface.”

Kathy added that the fish was swimming very slowly, and appeared to be “lethargic.”

According to National Geographic:

The mola are the heaviest of all the bony fish, with large specimens reaching 14 feet (4.2 meters) vertically and 10 feet (3.1 meters) horizontally and weighing nearly 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms).

Mola are found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. They are frequently seen basking in the sun near the surface and are often mistaken for sharks when their huge dorsal fins emerge above the water. Their teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, and they are unable to fully close their relatively small mouths.

Their food of choice is jellyfish, though they will eat small fish and huge amounts of zooplankton and algae as well. They are harmless to people, but can be very curious and will often approach divers.

Kathy added:

“I’m  fairly certain it’s the same fish that appeared to wash up on the South Beach a few weeks ago and was gently pushed back out into the water by a passerby. It then slowly swam away. Just curious to learn about this sweet creature.”

I have seen a few out in the ocean by Neah Bay, never seen one come into the Sound,” Troy Camp said on our Facebook page.

Facebook and Reddit readers were quick to identify this sweet creature as an ‘Ocean Sunfish,’ aka ‘Mola Mola,’

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Comments

3 Responses to “PHOTOS: Possible ‘Ocean Sunfish’ seen swimming off Burien’s Three Tree Point”
  1. pamela says:

    That is awesome and sad, it is a warm water fish, so I am not quite sure if can live long in the Puget sound waters. Wonderful picture

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  2. othersideofthetracks says:

    I`ve seen them in the ocean a couple of times off long beach while fishing,
    They are pretty docile fish, just kind of lay there with that fin in the air
    watching you as you go by.

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  3. Katherine says:

    You might want to contact the Seattle Aquarium or “diver Laura”. Her contact info can be found on the West Seattle Blog.

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