A 600-pound ocean sunfish that was found cold-stunned and struggling in Nantucket Harbor Friday afternoon was rescued by a good samaritan and members of the Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket.
The sunfish was first spotted in the harbor along Washington Street by Alvaro Soares, who stayed with the fish and called Nantucket Police.
“It was stuck in the harbor and couldn’t find its way back out,” said MMAN member Rain Harbison. “It was definitely cold stunned and couldn’t swim at full strength. It most likely would have stranded on the beach on the next outgoing tide.”
After MMAN was contacted, island resident Blair Perkins backed his truck into the harbor with his lift gate down and a team of four people floated the sunfish onto the lift gate, strapped it down and drove it to Jetties Beach where it was released on the ocean side.
“The hero of this story is the man in the water,” Harbison said. “His name is Alvaro Soares. He’s the one who called us and he stayed with the Mola in the water until we could get there. Then he helped us load it up and release it.”
With winter approaching, the sun fish that are frequent visitors to island waters can get trapped in the harbor, a scenario which has played out before.
“They are looking for warmer waters,” Harbison said. “On their way south they sense the warmer water of the harbor and come in, but it’s a trap for them. Once they are in the harbor they can’t find their way back out and circle around while the water temperatures keep dropping, until they become cold stunned and can’t move. They are further weakened by lack of food. Both sea turtles and mola molas appear to be cold stunning more frequently, presumably because the waters are warming further and further north with climate change and the added distance to reach warmer water exacerbates the potential for this condition.”
The MMAN team was also assisted by Eric Gotay, who helped hold the Mola in the truck and keep it hydrated.
“Let’s hope this guy makes his way out to deep water,” said MMAN’s Kim Schulam “We’ve been monitoring a couple of them in the harbor for the last several days. We’re hoping this was one of them.”
The MMAN is holding new volunteer training on Dec 13 7 - 8:30 p.m. You can register on its website: nantucketmman.org