On-board Diary: Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) in Ratón de Getaria

Author: Ana de la Torriente
Date: July 24, 2008



Early in the morning, we departed from Zumaia and headed towards Getaria.

Once there, we carried out one of the most spectacular dives you can have in the Cantabrian.

This is a coastal area where ocean sunfish (Mola mola) appear during the summer months.

After Ignacio San Miguel from the K-sub diving centre showed us the exact location, we descended to a sandy seabed at 22 meters depth with presence of large rock formations that rise to 15 meters depth. A place where ocean sunfish come to be cleaned by other fish: seabreams, black seabreams and even gulls on the water's surface.

Apart from enjoying this cleaning session, we documented the presence of a large school of mackerel (Trachurus trachurus), grey triggerfish (Ballistes carolinensis), invertebrates including the gorgonian (Leptogorgia lusitanica) or the polychaete (Sabella spallanzani).

But the surprise came at the end of the dive, when we found a gillnet in which various species of fish, including an ocean sunfish, were caught.

Zabala Point (Cape Higuer)

We carried out the second dive with the ROV off Cape Higuer, in Hondarribia, at a depth of approximately 50 meters. Even though we found species of sponges and red calcareous algae on the rocks, and nudibranchs, hydrozoans, sea urchins and shells, this area did not harbour an important density of organisms. The geomorphology, though, of the seabed was characteristic and included rocky formations of varying sizes that we had not seen until now.

In the afternoon, we carried out another dive with the divers. On a hard seabed at approximately 20 meters depth, various benthic invertebrates showed us their chromatic variety in front of the spotlights and flashes of the cameras.

We found an area where small rocks were covered with small algae. But on the overhangs there was abundant biodiversity, comprised mainly of sponges, cnidarians, worms, fish and tunicates.

Tonight we will dock at the port of Hendaya, in the Bidasoa estuary, the boundary between France and Spain.

While we are docked, we will meet with representatives of Itsas Geroa, an organisation dedicated to reconciling fishing activities with the defence of the marine environment. Many of them are fishermen or ex-fishermen. We crossed the estuary and went to have dinner with them in Hondarribia, where we talked and exchanged opinions about the problems of the fishing industry, the lack of marine resources and the different fishing techniques currently being used.