The Alaska Ocean Observing System in Anchorage has launched a “blob” tracker to keep the public informed about the “Pacific Blob,” a large pool of unusually warm water off the West Coast, extending to Canada and as far north as the Gulf of Alaska.
The Blob Tracker, at alaskapacificblob.wordpress.com will feature some basic background information and Alaska relevant resource links and current observations. AOOS also plans to maintain the site with contributions from a team of experts and questions addressed on a FAQ page.
The Blob Tracker is already reporting the sighting of four ocean sunfish, also known as Mola Mola, off of Hinchinbrook Island near Cordova. The sighting occurred on Aug. 5 by Scott Pegau of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute in Cordova.
Mola Mola are the heaviest known bony fish in the world, with the average adult weighing in between 545 and 2,205 pounds.
The species is native to tropical and temperate waters and exhibits surface basking behavior where they swim on their side exposing their largest profile towards the sun. It is during such times that they are usually noticed by people on boats.
Mola Mola feed on jellyfish, and are prey for sharks, Orca whales and sea lions.
Mola Mola are normally found in water warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and are rarely observed in Alaskan waters. Scientists think one major factor driving this migration is temperature. Documenting regular as well as unusual sightings may help scientists to understand better what is influencing the range and migration of these sea creatures, AOOS said.