During the early afternoon of Wednesday 4 December 2019, the Two Oceans Aquarium was alerted to the fact that an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) had become trapped in the Robinson Dry Dock in the V&A Waterfront, across the way from the Aquarium. The water was being drained from the dock and the fish had nowhere to escape to.

The Aquarium's rescue team quickly jumped into action, but just as quickly realised that the fish was too big for the team to move on their own. They would need some assistance, and more-than-human muscle power, for this rescue. One phone call later and a plan had been put into motion that would ensure the sunfish's safe return to the ocean.

The ocean sunfish became trapped in the dry dock as the water was being drained. Credit: M. Viljoen/Two Oceans Aquarium

Gavin Abrahams from Johnson Crane Hire dispatched his crane operator, Nzikayise Tanda, all the way from Epping, to come and assist. At the same time, the rescue team took this opportunity to collect valuable scientific samples for an international study on sunfish. 

Collecting valuable samples for research. Credit: R. Leeuwner/Two Oceans Aquarium

Nzikayise positioned the crane and the sunfish was placed onto a stretcher, which was then attached to the crane. From there, the fish was hoisted up and over the dry dock wall to the Aquarium boat, which was already waiting on its precious cargo. Once the stretcher with the sunfish was positioned on the boat, the rescue team, cheered on by all the bystanders, headed out to release the fish outside of the harbour.

Hooking the stretcher up to the crane. Credit: M. Viljoen/Two Oceans Aquarium

We were very happy with the condition of the sunfish, and must commend the quick action of the Transnet and Cape Town Port Authority team in acting swiftly to save this ocean sunfish, particularly Johan who manages the dry dock, Gavin Abrahams from Johnson Crane Hire and Nzikayise Tanda the crane operator. Large working ports like Cape Town harbour are a major interface between the natural and human-made world, and it is a pleasure to be able to work in collaboration with organisations that see the value in conserving our ocean treasures.

Want to know more? Here's everything you need to know about ocean sunfish.

Our work with sunfish

The Two Oceans Aquarium assists international researchers of sunfish with the collection of DNA samples when Aquarium staff members come across a sunfish in Cape Town waters. 

Click here to read more about our conservation work with sunfish.

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