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Wonderful Mola Mola spotted on Malta - are they back for good?

Published: August 2, 2023 - 11:10
Updated: August 2, 2023 - 15:59
Wonderful Mola Mola spotted on Malta – are they back for good?

The Mola mola, also known as the ocean Sunfish, holds the title of being the heaviest bony fish in the world.

Divers encountering these majestic creatures often seize the opportunity for a photo session, as the experience is truly memorable. Although common in warm climate waters, the Mola mola never fails to bewilder those around them.

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Mistaken for a baby shark due to its dorsal fin emerging from the water at the surface, the Mola mola gracefully glides to wallow in the sunshine. However, a closer look reveals its distinct, colossal bullet-like shape. Utilizing its large dorsal and anal fins, the Mola mola maneuvers and steers, relying on its dumpy clavus. Interestingly, it grows more in height than in length, reaching up to 4.2 meters in height and 3.3m in length, giving it its characteristic rounded physique.

Despite its impressive size and appearance, the Mola mola faces numerous challenges. Over 40 different parasites have been found thriving on their thick grey skin due to their slow swimming speed, which provides ample time for these parasites to manifest. To combat this, the Mola mola breaches the surface, allowing birds to feed on the parasites or exposing them to the sun, leading to their demise.

However, skin parasites are not the only threat the Mola mola faces. Fishing activities, particularly with long drift nets, pose a significant danger as the fish draws nearer to the surface. These majestic creatures often get trapped in the nets and become unintentional catches. In fact, approximately 93 percent of the catch from Spanish gillnets in the Mediterranean consists of Mola mola.

The Ocean Sunfish primarily preys on jellyfish and zooplankton. Unfortunately, like turtles, they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, leading to suffocation and even starvation when ingesting plastic material. This vulnerability, combined with the impact of single-use plastic on marine life, contributes to the Mola mola population being considered vulnerable as well.

As we marvel at the grandeur of the Mola mola, it is essential to recognize and address the various threats it faces. Conservation efforts are crucial in protecting not only these magnificent creatures but also the delicate marine ecosystems they inhabit.

Where was it spotted exactly and why is it important?

The Ċirkewwa Marine Park, nestled on the picturesque north-western coast of Malta, holds the distinguished title of being the first marine park established in the country. It is a pristine marine environment that beautifully encapsulates the rich biodiversity and stunning natural beauty unique to Malta’s underwater world.

The park is a haven for diverse marine species and serves as an essential ecological sanctuary, contributing to the preservation and study of marine life. Its crystal-clear waters offer spectacular visibility, making it a popular spot for diving enthusiasts who are drawn to its captivating underwater landscapes and fascinating marine creatures. The establishment of the Ċirkewwa Marine Park reflects Malta’s commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. It stands as a testament to the island’s rich natural heritage, and the ongoing efforts to preserve it for future generations.

What kind of species can you see there?

The Ċirkewwa Marine Park, located at the Northwest-most point of Malta, is a haven for diverse marine life. This park encompasses three main dive sites and is home to various species, contributing to its rich biodiversity. One of the species you can find here is the Hermit Crab, specifically the Dardanus calidus. This anomuran decapod crustacean is common in Maltese waters and can inhabit both soft and hard bottoms.

The park also plays a vital role in the ecosystem of sharks. With over 500 different species, sharks are crucial for maintaining the balance of marine life. Although the exact species present in Ċirkewwa Marine Park are not specified, it’s clear that sharks are part of the park’s ecosystem. Moreover, the park’s underwater wrecks have become a habitat for a large number of algae and fish species over the years. The specifics about these algae and fish species are not detailed in the sources provided, but their presence contributes significantly to the marine park’s ecological diversity.

malta cirkewa park mola mola

Please note, this information might vary over time due to environmental factors and conservation efforts. For the most accurate and updated information, consider contacting or visiting the official website of Ċirkewwa Marine Park

 

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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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