Ocean sunfish hauled in to the landing shore at Valiathura, the first recording of such a catch off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram.

An oddly shaped fish, generally found in deeper tropical waters, decided to get entangled in the nets of fishermen at work off the Vizhinjam coast. For the fishermen, it was unlike anything their nets had unearthed from the seas before as they brought the ocean sunfish to the landing shore at Valiathura, the first recording of such a catch off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram.

Described as an incredibly rare catch, scientists at the Vizhinjam office of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) said the one previous sighting of the fish was off the Malabar coast, near Kozhikode, in 2007. The eastern seaboard of the country has had better luck as the fish is said to thrive in the marine sanctuary of the Gulf of Mannar off Tamil Nadu. Even so, Chennai’s last recording of a sunfish catch was also in 2007, with none reported after that.

When they made the catch, the fishermen were said to be around 38 km off the shore and the depth of the sea there is 50 fathoms (around 300 feet). Principal scientist with the CMFRI (Vizhinjam) A.P. Lipton says the fish normally never comes anywhere close to shore.

The fish weighed 70 kg and had a length of 103 cm.

Medicinal value

“The meat of the ocean sunfish is a delicacy in countries such as Taiwan and Japan. In fact, it is one of the few fishes whose every portion is considered edible in these countries, from its fins to the internal organs,” Dr. Lipton said. Some of its parts are even used as ingredients of traditional medicines.

A part of the fish will be sent to Kochi for analysis at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology.

Some of the fisher folk exhibited their own traditional knowledge of deep-sea fishes by lighting part of the fish, thereby demonstrating its high oil content. They are not putting it up for sale and have buried it as they do not want to take the risk of selling something whose quality is questionable.