A rare sunfish washed up at Heacham
Sanctuary staff tried in vain to save the life of a rare sunfish washed up at Heacham just before Christmas.

Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary was alerted when holidaymaker Paul Dennis from South Wootton came across the rare Mola mola floundering in the surf.

Another local man Manny Sayers had earlier spent
45-minutes knee-deep in the sea keeping the stricken fish from washing onto the sand.

Sunfish are found in tropical seas where they wander vast distances feeding on plankton and jellyfish, and can grow to colossal sizes. Individuals up to 14 feet from fin tip to fin tip and weighing over 5,000 lbs have been recorded. Aquarist Mathew Nicholas and colleague Jon Knight raced to the scene and took the clearly ailing creature back to the Sanctuary to try and revive it.
a rare sunfish washed up at Heacham
″Sunfish struggle to survive in seas colder than 12 degrees, and the temperature off Heacham is about 8 degrees at the moment,″ said Mathew.

″This one must have got caught up in the gulf stream and, the further north it drifted the weaker it must have become.

″We got it into our largest quarantine tank as soon as we could and gradually raised the water temperature to avoid causing it shock,″ he added, ″but its condition continued to decline and in spite of all our efforts it died at about midnight.″

The last sunfish found on the Norfolk coast was washed up already dead in Old Hunstanton 10 years ago.

Another found on the Weymouth coast a year earlier in 1998 was successfully rescued and returned to the sea a few months later after convalescing at Weymouth SEA LIFE Centre.

″We were all really upset that we couldn't save this one,″ said Mathew, ″but it must have been in our freezing seas for days and it's a miracle that it survived as long as it did.″
Issued by the Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary
For more details, please contact Nigel Croasdale on 01485 533576
Date: 13th January 2010