Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

The agony of mola-mola

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

It's just a fish, I know. No misery moved. Still, it's sad to see, a mola-mola in agony ...

The mola-mola, that's the big moonfish that I met at Nusa Penida, near Bali, in 2008. This summer, near Bangka Island, in Sulawesi, I saw one again ... in less pleasant circumstances.

An unusual catch

They are fishermen from the area who came to find us, between two dives.

Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Hookah fishermen, Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

We were all a small group on the boat from Mimpi Indah. Indonesian side: our guide Jemi and a buddy of his, Rocky, who is also a dive guide, but who was just accompanying us that day; our captain and his deckhand.

Tourist side: four Italians on holiday; Clare, a young Scottish girl spending her dive-master and then me, the French girl who takes pictures underwater.

Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

On the little swing boat that approaches ours, hookah fishermen. I spot the regulators and the small compressor. I have not been too successful in knowing if they just pick up pots, or what they usually catch, and under what conditions ...

Still, on that day, they made an unusual catch: a mola mola, !

Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

A sick or injured moonfish

Clare can't believe it. She's never seen one. Neither have the Italians. We all open our eyes. Very excited, the guides and the captain get on the little fisherman's boat, to get a closer look at the beast. And take pictures with their cell phones!

The big fish has one vitreous eye, and the other half bloody. Sick, wounded? He's still alive, but not very bright. He's wiggling his big dorsal fin a little, around which the fishermen have wrapped a rope.

From the explanations I got, it turns out that the fishermen found this mola-mola on the surface. The fish was already in bad shape, they had no trouble catching it and attaching it to the hull of their boat.

They do not want to keep it, just show it to us. Moreover, after having chatted with our guys, they undo the ropes and release him.

The fish floats on the flank first, instead of straightening up. He seems unable to swim. Then he regains some strength, sinks under the surface, shakes his dorsal fin, moves a little away from the boat. But he's struggling.

Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

Two swimmers to the rescue

As a result, Jemi and Rocky slip fins and mask and get into the water. They join the mola-mola and swim next to him, on both sides.

They are a bit far. Difficult, from the boat, to see if they push it or drag it, to help it go further offshore. After a long time, they turn around and come back to us. The captain raises the engine of the boat to recover them.

Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.
Mola mola-. Bangka Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. July 2010.

Once on board, they shake their heads. Their efforts did not change the case. The mola-mola was struggling to swim. He is unlikely to survive.

Once the animal was in the sea, the two "rescuers" were crowding around my photos, made with my little spare APN that I had the good idea to take with me (my 7D was in the underwater photo case, with the macro lens, so unusable for taking "normal" photos). Everyone has their own commentary. I tell the molas-molas of Nusa Lembongan.

I don't know if the bangka sunfish survived. I doubt it, given its condition. He looked pretty agonizing to me. But who knows? Nature can be surprisingly resourceful at times.

The mola-mola dance

Small addition below, to console the saddest: the video of the mola-mola, alive and well this one, crossed in the waters of Nusa Penida, near Bali, in 2008 (and I then timidly performing the famous dance mola-mola, underwater choreography very popular at World Diving, excellent dive-shop on Nusa Lembongan) ...


  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2010

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  1. Sad story ... it's so beautiful and so rare a fish moon ... especially over there. It only remains to hope that the harsh law of nature will save him ...

  2. Beautiful story, who would have interested Hemingway!

    What is the origin of this strange name mola-mola? I prefer him to moon fish, more poetic.

  3. @Manta: Beautiful and rare, certainly ... And when you are a diver / dive, you also feel more concerned. I have also seen some carcasses of sharks with cut fins floating on the surface in the Togian, as well as turtles and small dead sharks caught in underwater nets in other places ... Men finally make more than damage that the "hard" law of nature.

    @Ysbilia: I foolishly believed that "mola-mola" was the local, Indonesian name for the moon fish. In fact, it's his Latin scientific name (for want of being able to ask Hemingway, I inquired with Wikipedia: ). In everyday language, it is also called "mole" or "fish-mole".
    And this is the binomial nomenclature (thanks again Wikipedia: ) which earned him the repetition of the name: mola-mola. "Finally, the mole was classified with the" Mola ramsayi "in a specific genus - Mola - of which she is the type species. "

  4. More info for Ysbilia:

    The term "mole" probably derives from the Latin mola which means a "grindstone" or a big stone. This species should therefore be named for its gray color, rough texture and round body. Another common name for the pier is "moon fish", a term found in Italian (pesce luna), Spanish (pez luna), Portuguese (Peixe-lua), German (Mondfisch). This name is due to its round shape reminiscent of that of the moon.


  5. Superb, your video of the sunfish... beautiful moments... often seen on the surface, I have not yet had the opportunity to come across the sunfish underwater 🙁

  6. Very sad story 😥
    Fortunately we come across more live moon fish than dead ... Hoping that they do not become a miracle cure for imaginary diseases like other rare species!