FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCBD)- Holy Mola! A group of local fisherman captured a rare sight when they spotted a Mola mola in the water off Folly Beach last month.
Quincy Wilson was fishing off the Folly Beach Pier when he and a friend noticed a large animal swimming below them.
“I know the camera doesn’t do the size justice, but we thought it was a whale at first,” Wilson shared in an April 20 Instagram post.
Turns out, it wasn’t a whale but rather a different massive marine creature — the Ocean Sunfish.
According to NOAA, Ocean Sunfish — also known as Mola mola — get their name for their habit of lying flat on the surface of the ocean in order to warm themselves by the sun.
Mola molas are silvery-gray fish with a tiny mouth, big eyes, and a truncated tail. The species is the heaviest bony fish in the world, reaching up to 5,000 pounds and ten feet in length, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.
Officials say it is unusual to see a Mola mola in the Lowcountry, especially so close to the shore.
“The fish typically makes its home in much deeper water, so it’s rare to see to see in the Lowcountry, which is typically defined by shallow water around the marsh,” a Charleston County Parks spokesperson said. “But, actually it’s not common to see one close to the shore at all.”
The global Ocean Sunfish population is listed as ‘vulnerable‘ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.