Photographer snaps rare sunfish in the Hebrides

Photographer Shane Wasik took a selfie of himself swimming with the rare sunfish off Coll
Photographer Shane Wasik took a selfie of himself swimming with the rare sunfish off Coll
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AN UNDERWATER photographer who came home to Scotland empty-handed after travelling more than 7,800 miles to take a picture of an exotic fish in its home territory was amazed to finally accomplish his mission in the Hebrides.

Shane Wasik failed to snap the sunfish in the waters of Bali but managed to take a selfie of himself with one of the exotic fish, which was lured into Scottish waters as temperatures soared on Friday.

Sunfish, which can swim huge distances, are usually found in tropical and temperate waters, but are a rarity in the cooler climes of Scotland.

But as Mr Wasik, who runs Oban-based company Basking Shark Scotland, led a tourist boat trip off Coll, a sunfish made an appearance along with a shark and a whale.

Mr Wasik, 32, who recorded the surface temperature of the water at 18C – a rarity in the Hebrides – said: “I was sent out by a diving magazine on a photo trip to Bali to try to capture pictures of sunfish and unfortunately they didn’t show.

“Then there we were, patrolling the Sea of the Hebrides, when we saw a fin in the distance waving and flapping at the surface. We knew it was sunfish and motored the boat before making quiet at a safe distance.

“The sunfish moved towards us and our crew, Luke, launched a drone to capture some aerial footage along with everyone getting very good images from the boat, and I managed to take a selfie with the sunfish in the water.”

He added: “We had ten people out on the boat from England and Finland, including a couple of kids. They were all completely overawed by the experience, it was something they will never forget. The sunfish was relaxed and actively interacting with us. They are known to have a symbiotic relationship with seabirds, who remove parasites from them, so perhaps it was seeking something similar from us?”

As one small group from the boat was swimming with the sunfish, a basking shark appeared off the stern and a whale surfaced nearby.

Mr Wasik said: “To have three different ocean giants round the boat was very, very special – almost surreal given the flat calm conditions.”

Sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the world at around 1,000kg, can be as tall as they are long and can grow to up to three metres.

They go by the scientific name Mola mola and live on a diet of jellyfish – which have been plentiful around the coast of Scotland this year.

Adult sunfish are vulnerable to few predators, but sea lions, orcas and sharks will consume them. Among humans, sunfish are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including Japan and Korea.