A dedicated Cetacean researcher, Jared Towers bought a home right on the coast so that he would never be too far away from his beloved sea life. His front door mere feet from the water of Alert Bay, Towers often spends time looking out onto the shimmering surface, hoping to spot a killer whale or sea lion.
Last week, Towers was making one of his usual scans of the water when he spotted an unfamiliar sight. There was a massive fish basking and swimming in the calm bay. The scientist knew almost immediately that it was far from its home.
He grabbed his binoculars, hoping to get a better look at the extraordinary fish and his suspicions were confirmed. The fish, over six feet wide, nine feet across, and about a foot thick, was a sub-tropical sunfish – relaxing happily in the waters of Canada!
Wasting no time, Towers ran back into his house, threw on his wetsuit, and waded into the chilly water. Inches from the sunfish, the enamored researcher spent many “surreal” minutes inches from the gargantuan creature until eventually, to Towers’ immense delight, the fish swam right up to him.
Sharing the unbelievable experience to Facebook, Jared Towers gushed about his close encounter with the gentle giant. “I can’t believe this just happened!” the researcher wrote. “I’ve seen many sunfish (Mola) offshore over the years but never so close to home or this close up. Also, it turns out this is a Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta), a species only recently discovered.”
“What a beautiful and inquisitive fish!” he continued. “I hope it finds its way back to warmer waters soon. … Once in a lifetime moment right here!”
Sea Life Researcher Details His Sunfish Encounter
Towering above the ground at 6 foot 7, Jared Towers is something of a giant himself. In a subsequent interview with the Times Colonist, Towers wondered if it was his similarity in size to the sunfish that made it so comfortable with him.
The mammoth sunfish showed absolutely no hesitation or fear throughout the entire encounter. On the contrary, Towers had the distinct feeling that the fish was just as fascinated by him as he was by it.
“It had these big beautiful eyes and it was looking me over, up and down,” Towers said. “I’m used to having large mammals watching and having this inquisitiveness, but I never expected this out of a fish processing information about me.”
As Towers explained, this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only is the sunfish native to the warmer waters of Australia and South Africa, far, far away from Canada’s icy coast, but this particular species is also even rarer than the typical sunfish.
The Hoodwinker sunfish was discovered only five years ago by a Danish scientist named Mariaane Nyegaard. Scientists affectionately dubbed it “Hoodwinker” because it had been hiding in plain sight amongst its fellow sunfish for more than one hundred years.
“I’m just lucky that one showed up and I was able to get up close and spend some time with it,” Towers said.