Unusual fish rescued after washing up in Ko Olina lagoon

Photo: Jordan Sanchez


There have been quite a few interesting sea creatures washing up on our shores lately.

A viewer sent us video via the Report It feature on our website of a sunfish in West Oahu.

It was floating in one of the lagoons at Ko Olina.

These large fish are found in tropical oceans around the world, but they normally live in the open ocean and dive down deep for food. DLNR said that thee fish are usually are found in waters deeper than 1000′.

Division of Aquatic Resources Aquatic Biologists David Gulko and Ryan Okano responded to the fish after being alerted. The identified the fish as a sharptail mola (Masturus lanceolatus) and said it was about 6 feet long. The biologists said the mola appeared to be in distress and allowed people to approach it.

Upon closer investigation Gulko determined the animal had no extensive external wounds, no severe human-caused trauma, and did not appear to have been attacked by predators. The fish did have numerous fresh scratches from entering the lagoon across the very shallow reef flat. Gulko also said there was no external signs of disease.

What they did find after close inspection was a large fish lodged in the right gill opening of the mola. The remora was approximately 1.5 feet long — and still alive.

Once they removed the remora, the mola regained its strength and activity.

Close-up showing the tail fin of the remora sticking out of the gill opening of the Mola. White marks indicate recent scratches caused to the Mola as it came across the shallow reef crest and into Lagooon 3. (Credit: DLNR DAR)

We asked Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium director, what would have brought this fish to shore.

“It’s a very unusual fish. Not a lot is known of them, but one of the challenges is that when they come into shallow water like this one has, it’s usually because they’re sick or being injured in the wild,” Rossiter said.

Sunfish don’t have any scales, but rather leather-like skin.

They’re also the heaviest known bony fish in the world and can grow to more than 2,000 pounds.

Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish.

DAR Aquatic Biologist Ryan Okano removing the remora from the Mola. (Credit: DLNR DAR)

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