La Jolla Swarm of Anchovies a Mystery

La JollaSomething odd has shown up off the coast of La Jolla, California! A swarm of anchovies has mysteriously migrated to the La Jolla Shores, leaving oceanographers to try and figure out the reason. Javier Panzar of The Los Angeles Time wrote scientists have not seen anything like this for 30 years.

According to Panzar, three oceanographers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography were swimming with the mysterious school of fish. Communications officer, Robert Monroe grabbed a camera thinking the oceanographers were studying “red tide,” but when Monroe came closer, the red tide looked more like an oil slick. As Monroe went further onto the Scripps Pier, the swarm began to look more like a lava lamp. Monroe tossed the waterproof camera toward the oceanographers so they could photograph the fish. Panzar stated samples of the fish were taken too.

City News Service (CNS) of San Diego added in another report that the swarm of fish mysteriously showing up in La Jolla is known as “Northern Anchovy.” These fish do not usually appear so close to the coastline. CNS stated the swarm could be seen from the Scripps Pier all the way to the distant north. The fish were reported to have dissipated by evening, though new reports stated the fish migrated north to Carlsbad, California.

Phil Hastings, a marine biology professor at UC San Diego, and curator for the marine vertebrae collection of Scripps said the temperature of the water was around 74 degrees, and pretty warm for this kind of fish. Hastings expressed doubt over why these fish showing up in a swarm of 15 to 100 feet wide off the coast would be solved.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) might be able to take the mystery out of the swarm of anchovies in La Jolla through their affiliate website called Fish Watch. This website contains current information on seafood that is harvested or farmed, and informs the public on the “science, laws, and management” of U.S. fisheries and seafood supply.

According to NOAA, the northern anchovy is also known as the North Pacific anchovy and California anchovy. It is found near Washington, Oregon, and California, but is also known to migrate as far north as British Columbia in Canada, and as far south as Baja California. Although there are 20 different kinds of species, the northern anchovy has been top choice for bait, fish meal, and even human consumption as a protein and oil. In fact, this species of fish used to compete with sardines in the 1940s when the sardine industry originally “collapsed,” but then made a comeback in the industry.

The northern anchovy has a relative in Europe referred to as Engraulis encrasicolus which is said to be the “true anchovy” and often used in the culinary world. This fish is found in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and warm waters of the East Atlantic Ocean. According to NOAA, this species of anchovy is often imported to the U.S. for human consumption.

The NOAA website states the northern anchovy is known to “move short distances along the shore and offshore” which means the fish showing up near the coastline of La Jolla is not too surprising. However, scientists at NOAA also state environmental conditions, such as water temperature greatly affect the population shift of the fish. Anchovies tend to populate more in cooler waters making it unusual that a swarm would show up in waters measuring 74 degrees in La Jolla.

NOAA works with a program called the Pacific Coast Observing System (PaCOOS) which tracks fluctuations within the ocean. Scientists from these organizations address changes in environment and productivity, particularly that which is affected by climate change. Perhaps these organizations will work with Scripps Institute of Oceanography to address the recent mysterious swarm of anchovies in La Jolla.

By Liz Pimentel

LA Times
San Diego 6 News

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