By Bruce Mann (ORI)
A strange looking fish was washed up on the beach at the Sandspit just north of Port Shepstone recently and in no time a photograph of it was doing the rounds on social media. I received the photo from several anglers, and I was completely baffled. I sent the picture to a few knowledgeable colleagues who likewise could not put a name to it. To solve the mystery, I sent the picture to some fish experts at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) in Makhanda. They were able to identify it as a fanfish Pteraclis velifera (Smith No. 207.4). Although it looks very different to the illustration in Smiths’ Sea Fishes this is likely because the fan-like dorsal and anal fin were worn off (or nibbled off) while the fish was washing around in the surf.
This interesting fish belongs to the pomfret family (Bramidae), it has a circumglobal distribution in tropical and temperate oceans and is a pelagic species (found living in the water column). They reach a size of about 50 cm and are characterised by sail-like dorsal and anal fins which are blue-black in colour with silver edges. Very little is known about their biology.
For anglers and fish enthusiasts interested in marine fish caught around the South African coast please consider purchasing the new ORI Fish App for your cell phone. Go to Google Play Store (Android phones) or App Store (iPhones), to download the “Marine Fish Guide for Southern Africa”. It only costs R200 (less than you normally spend in the tackle store) and it contains 250 of the most common fish species. We are sure that you will not be disappointed!