It's Huge! Rare Giant Fish Native To Southern Hemisphere Found On Santa Barbara County Coastline

Feb 27, 2019

It’s a science story which sounds more like a sci-fi story. A fish washed up on a South Coast beach. No big deal, right? Except this fish is seven feet wide, seven feet long, weighs hundreds of pounds, and is normally only found in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s what’s known as a Hoodwinker Sunfish.

Dr. Thomas Turner is an Associate Professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Department. He says the bizarre looking fish type of fish, found at UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve, has never been spotted in the Northern Hemisphere before.

Turner says the story started February 19th, when an intern let Jessica Nielsen, a Conservation Specialist with the Reserve, know about the bizarre dead fish which had washed up on the beach.

Nielsen thought it was a Mola Mola, a relative of the Hoodwinker Sunfish which is commonly seen off our coast. Nielsen posted pictures on the UCSB Reserve’s Facebook page. That perked Turner’s interest, who took pictures which he posted on a social media site dedicated to unusual species. Australian biologists who had discovered hoodwinker sunfish in the Southern Hemisphere recognized the fish, and contacted UCSB researchers, asking them to take some samples of the fish.

The big unanswered question is over how the giant rare fish normally found halfway around the world end up on a Santa Barbara County beach.

UCSB researchers say there was no obvious sign of death of the massive fish, but are hoping they may get some clues as they study some of the internal organs which were removed.