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Big Bay rescue teams pulled together to release a stranded sunfish back into the blue.

Sunfish, aka mola-mola, are one of the largest fish in the world, and can often be seen floating on their sides – ‘sunbathing’ – in the summer months along the Cape coast.

Recently, Station 18 (Melkbosstrand) duty crew received a call from the NSRI Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to assist in the rescue of a sunfish that had washed up on the shore in Big Bay, Melkbosstrand.

“I was first on the scene from NSRI,” says Station 18 commander Hein Kohne. “When I arrived, I met up with Wille from Hout Bay Seal Rescue, who’d called us for assistance. There were three lifeguards from Big Bay already there, who were getting ready to go into the water. I advised them to rather wait for our crew as the conditions were quite dangerous. Furthermore, the sunfish was close to a rock, where the water was very turbulent, and the risk of being washed up onto the rock was high. The lifeguards decided to still proceed to fetch the sunfish from the dangerous area and bring it to safety, and then wait for the NSRI vessel to arrive. The lifeguards managed to secure the fish after a few bumps against the rock.”

By this time, Class 4 Coxswain Daan Burger had launched Station 18’s JetRIB from Small Bay. The crew carefully lifted the fish onboard the vessel and transported it beyond the break line, to get free of the currents that had brought it ashore.

“The sunfish’s skin is very rough, like sandpaper!” says Daan. “We were careful not to have our skin taken off. We released it into the water, and hung around to make sure it was okay. After a while, it swam off on its own. Luckily we rescued it in time to save it. It was such a great feeling.”

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