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Dieren en planten

Fish   Triggerfish   Sunfish   Marine fauna   Sea fish   Catches and finds   Parasites   

Mens en Milieu

Sunfish

size:

record: 4 meters long

weight:

record: 2300 kilograms

color:

gray-brown, side and belly lighter, sometimes silvery tint

life span:

older than 10 years

food:

fish larvae, shellfish, crustaceans and zooplankton. They have a preference for jellyfish.

enemies:

orcas and sea lions; no known enemies in the North Sea

reproduction:

lays eggs
maturity: around age 5
number: 300 million (!)eggs

  • Dut: Maanvis (klompvis, molensteenvis, molenvis, zwemmende Kop)
  • Lat: Mola Mola
  • Eng: (Ocean) Sunfish, common mola
  • Ger: Mondfisch
  • Dan: Klumpfisk
Sunfish, caught at the end of 1992, Ecomare

Sunfish

Sunfish have a bizarre appearance. The best way to describe them is with the term 'swimming head'. Every once in awhile, a sunfish is caught in the North Sea, or one is washed ashore. It is usually a small, young specimen weighing around 50 kilograms. Sunfish have a relatively long life expectancy and keep growing their entire life. There have been reports of sunfish 4 meters long and 2300 kilograms. Sunfish have two world records. They are the heaviest known bony fish and they lay the most eggs. They are even mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records.

By Egmond, Texel and Ameland


In August 2012, two kayakers saw a live sunfish by the pier by De Cocksdorp on Texel. "It looked like he was sunbathing and waved with his fin", according to the spotters. With a size of 80 to 90 centimeters, it was a reasonably large specimen. A slightly smaller sunfish was spotted a week earlier by Egmond, 65 centimeters in diameter. A few weeks after the kayaker's find by Texel, an Ameland sport fisherman caught a sunfish in the North Sea. It is unknown whether or not this was the Egmond specimen. The fish was brought to the aquarium at the Nature Center on Ameland.

  • Features

    The body of a sunfish looks sort of like a flat disk. Directly after the two extended fins (dorsal and anal fins) is an exceptionally short tail, which makes their body practically round. They have a rough, leathery skin without scales, under which a layer of cartilage lies as extra protection. They are often covered with fish lice, parasites belonging to the copepods. They are not able to make any flexible swimming motions with their stiff bodies. They swim by using their dorsal and anal fins as paddles.

    Young sunfish look different than adult specimen. When they are 1 centimeter long, they have a sphere-shaped body with spiny extrusions. These spines help them to float better in the upper water layers.

  • Sunfish in the North Sea

    The North Sea is rich in plankton. Therefore, it is not unusual that a sunfish should occasionally be found swimming around here. That occurs mostly in the months of December and January, although there are occasional reports during other seasons. Every year, a few are accidentally caught by the North Sea fishermen. Sometimes one washes ashore. They probably can't swim well in shallow and turbulent water due to their stiff body. Therefore, when caught in such a situation, they are easily thrown onto the beach by the surf.

    In early January 2005, 9 middle-sized sunfish washed ashore in the Netherlands with one week. The hard westerly wind was probably the reason. 2005 was an exceptional sunfish year; a total of 15 animals washed ashore, an absolute stranding record. Large sunfish are rare in the North Sea; usually only 'small ones' weighing around 50 kilograms are caught. The largest sunfish spotted in Dutch waters washed ashore on Ameland in December 1889. That animal was 2.73 meters wide and 2.23 meters long. It took a long time before such a large one was found again. On 23 December 1992, the Texel's fishing vessel TX 37 caught one in the Diepe Gat. This animal was 1.60 meters long and two meters wide. At the end of November 1998, the UK 225 caught a slightly larger sunfish in the Silver Pit. This animal was 1.78 meters long, 2.24 meters wide and weighed 251 kilograms.

  • Recent beachings, sightings and catches
    DateLocationLength (cm)Height(cm)Weight(kg)
    06-2002 Southern North Sea (VLI 25) 40    
    01-2003 Southern North Sea (ARM 20)     42
    30-12-2003 Middelkerke 59    
    14-12-2004 Den Helder 68    
    02-01-2005 Wassenaar 84   40
    07-01-2005 Knokke-Heist 81 104 35
    23-12-2005 Vlieland 81    
    26-12-2005 Zandvoort      
    25-12-2005 Veerse dam (Zeeland) 78    
    01-01-2006 Sint Maartenszee 56 80 9
    31-12-2007 Brouwersdam      
    22-12-2008 Katwijk 120 100  
    01-2010 North Sea, close to Scheveningen, caught by GO31 75    
    5-8-2010 North Sea, alive, brought to Sealife      
    21-12-2011 Vlieland      
    23-12-2011 Egmond 50    
    25-12-2011 Wassenaar 40    
    14-08-2012 Egmond, alive and photographed   65  
    19-8-2012 Texel, alive   80-90  
    9-9-2012 Ameland, caught alive and brought to the visitors center   80  
    sources: various reports on Internet, in Visserijnieuws and newspapers
  • Distribution of sunfish
    Distribution of sunfish, Ecomare

    Sunfish are found throughout the world, with the exception of very cold waters. They are seen in the North Sea just about every year.