Followup: Another sunfish perspective, before its Alki display

One day after we showed you the caught-in-Puget Sound ocean sunfish that was on display outside Alki’s Sunfish restaurant, a new look and perspective from one of the first to see it on shore after a Muckleshoot fishing crew brought it in. From journalist John Loftus:

Here’s a photo I took of the sunfish a few hours after it was landed on a dock on the Duwamish River.

Its weight has been estimated at 300-350 pounds. Wikipedia notes that the Monterey Bay Aquarium had a young specimen that arrived weighing 26 pounds and weighed 880 pounds just 15 months later, so it seems safe to say that, contrary to what one’s intuition may suggest, this is not an old fish.

You will also note a semicircular spot on its side where a pectoral fin used to be, apparently a healed-over wound. The fin, larger than a man’s hand, was present on the other side of the fish. It’s possible that the loss of this fin may have hindered the sunfish’s ability to navigate properly, resulting in its gradual weakening and disorientation. While very rare in Puget Sound, ocean sunfish are quite common all around the world and, unfortunately, are frequently caught in nets set for other fish.

I spent some time with the fish after it was moved to Sunfish on Alki, where it attracted a constant stream of curious visitors. Most found it fascinating. A few found it repulsive, a perception that was greatly exaggerated in KUOW’s report this morning. The owner of Sunfish and I both thought that the giant fish was very beautiful.

John Loftus, Editor
Muckleshoot Monthly

(Yes, that’s the 1st Avenue South Bridge in the background.) We looked but haven’t found a link to the KUOW discussion he mentioned; if you missed the link in the Wednesday report, The Seattle Times (WSB partner; paywalled) has updated its story. Here’s information about the species via National Geographic.

12 Replies to "Followup: Another sunfish perspective, before its Alki display"

  • Tbone October 31, 2013 (12:41 pm)

    That is so fascinating and beautiful! I wish I could have seen it up close. Thank you for the picture

  • lightreading October 31, 2013 (1:22 pm)

    I think what he is referring to in regard to KUOW…
    the morning announcer in relaying the event, gave the opinion that the fish was gross and thought it odd that an eating establishment would display it on one of it’s outside tables.

    • WSB October 31, 2013 (1:26 pm)

      Thanks – they have reformatted their website since last time I looked for a story (not to mention, the show schedule is different) so I was a little lost (though not complaining, as our website isn’t an easy-to-find-everything place either) – TR

  • Gatewooder October 31, 2013 (2:44 pm)

    That is a truly unique species of fish. It mainly eats jelleyfish, which allowed it to evolve into such an unusual form.

  • k October 31, 2013 (2:49 pm)

    Catching it to display it is gross. Sorry. Just my thoughts.

  • Ray West October 31, 2013 (3:10 pm)

    I agree with “K”. It should have just been left alone. I have seen one before, not this large, at Seattle Aquarium, many years ago. One was brought in live and was briefly on display in the underwarter dome. Unfortuately, it did not suruvive long. They are very unique. They are also known as mola mola fish.

  • schwaggy October 31, 2013 (3:21 pm)

    Nobody caught it to display it. Read the information.

  • Vanessa October 31, 2013 (4:13 pm)

    am I not the only one who wants to know about the lipstick?

  • heather October 31, 2013 (6:48 pm)

    I’m unsure if you’re kidding Vanessa. That’s not lipstick. The sunfish was tangled in the Tribes fishing nets and came to the surface with all the other fish.

  • Bobby Orr October 31, 2013 (10:37 pm)

    Wish they’d have let it live. Shame a beautiful creature died to go on display. Seems pretty hokey to take it to a place called sunfish. Like, how clever we are. So sad to see such a beautiful living thing killed and displayed for no reason.

  • Eric1 November 1, 2013 (1:28 am)

    I think people tend to over-react to the display. I have no problem since the fish was already dead. Like a zoo, it sucks to be in the display but there is an educational value to it (even this controversy is a learning opportunity).
    I wish it could live in peace and swim off into the sunset but the fates said otherwise and displaying it seems a fair result. We could debate society’s value of fishing but unless you survive on air and water, something dies to keep you alive. Furthermore, sometimes plants and animals are used as decorations (christmas wreaths anyone?).
    Alas, where do we draw the line.

  • sam-c November 1, 2013 (9:11 am)

    Vanessa- the blood? I don’t know much about fishing… that’s not net all over his face, is it? it looks like his face was sliced open and then sewed back together- is that what happened? I wonder.. anyone know- and if so, why?

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