CAPE COD - They're often mistaken for sharks because of their dorsal fin – or even small whales. More and more ocean sunfish called the waters off the Cape home for the summer, but many are having a hard time leaving for the winter.
But there may be a strange solution for this strange fish.
It's been a record year for ocean sunfish on the Cape.
"More reports than we have ever had," said Krill Carson, the president of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance.
But it's both good and bad. Although there were more sightings of the strange-looking fish swimming in Cape Cod Bay than ever before, the fish is now turning up stranded on beaches in record numbers.
"It's just like the sea turtles," Carson said. "Cape Cod is such a trap, it juts out 60 miles into the Atlantic Ocean."
Carson says typically they'll see at most 40 stranded sunfish. This year they've already seen 136.
"This fish is a good, strong swimmer that just needs to head south, and that's the problem," she said. "And it breaks your heart because when you see these fish on the beach these are not sick or damaged fish these are live healthy fish."
And with so many strandings happening, one volunteer realized she had something at home that might help.
The DeMelo family owns a bounce house company in Attleboro and came up with a sling of sorts using old rentals to help with rescues.
"When she told me, I thought it was a great idea just because we have all this extra material and instead of throwing it into the landfill we could put it to good use," said Nelson DeMelo of Better Bounce Inflatables.
Sunfish range from 200 to 1500 pounds. The smaller ones you can just push back into the ocean. But for the bigger ones, equipment like this could help.
"So, the hope is once it's proven that it works, make more and then put them in strategic locations throughout the Cape so that our rescue volunteers have someplace to go to get this rescue equipment if Krill can't show up or I can't show up," said Sarah DeMelo.
Sunfish aren't protected species and are usually harmless. So, Carson says if you see one on the beach, do you what you can to get it back in the water.
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