ODFW Marine Reserves Program researchers spotted several ocean sunfish, or mola mola, in Otter Rock and Cape Falcon Marine Reserves. There were also other reports of additional sunfish off of the central Oregon Coast. Ocean sunfish are a strange looking fish with a truncated tail and bullet shaped body. They often feed near the surface and get mistaken for sharks when their large dorsal fin emerges from the water (like in this video). They are found in temperate and tropical oceans worldwide and are spotted occasionally along the Oregon Coast.
The day this sunfish was spotted in Otter Rock Marine Reserve, surface water temperatures were on the warmer side, which may explain why sunfish were showing up. Surface water temperatures usually hover around 50 degrees, during our SCUBA surveys divers reported temperatures of 63 degrees (at 30 feet depth). The sunfish may be riding the warmer water currents that were coming closure to shore right now.
Sunfish are the largest bony fish and can get up to 11 feet long. They are harmless to people and their preferred meal of choice is jellyfish and zooplankton, and occasionally small fish. They tend to be curious and often approach divers and nearby boats.