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Rare anglerfish spotted on San Diego beach

Researchers say the fish usually lives thousands of feet deep in the Pacific Ocean.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — Local scientists are releasing more information about a rare fish recently seen at Blacks Beach

Researchers say the fish usually lives thousands of feet deep in the Pacific Ocean and they don’t know how or why it found its way to shore.

News 8 spoke to the man who took pictures of the fish, and he says initially, he thought it was a jellyfish. But once he saw its mouth, he knew it was something different.

Scientists say it’s about the size of a soccer ball. It’s an anglerfish called Pacific Footballfish. 

UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography says there are only about 30 anglerfish like this one in museums and fish collections around the world.

“Some of them have actually been caught in deep water nets off of California but also off Japan. Even in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. So, all over the Pacific Ocean,” said Ben Frable, Collection Manager of Marine Vertebrates, with Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  

Frable says another anglerfish was spotted near Laguna Beach earlier this year, but it’s been 20 years since an anglerfish has been seen off the coast in the San Diego area.

Credit: Jay Beiler
Pictures were taken on November 13 at 4:40 PM near the surf line at Blacks Beach in San Diego, CA.

“They’re cruising around the deep ocean, living in environments that are pretty much pitch black. Very reminiscent of the scene from Finding Nemo. They have a large lure on their head. Our fish from Del Mar that we do have here, they have this very big lure on their heads that glows. They can use that to attract prey. It swims up, they have this big mouth, and they can eat it.”

Credit: Jay Beiler
Pictures were taken on November 13 at 4:40 PM near the surf line at Blacks Beach in San Diego, CA.

Anglerfish fossils date back 60 million years, but Frable says they don’t know the age of this particular fish group. 

Jay Beiler, the man credited for getting photos of the fish, says he was walking along the beach when he spotted it just before sunset. 

Frable says documenting these rare findings allows them to learn more about what’s actually living in the depths of the ocean.

“Because they’re so uncommonly found, every single one of those provides valuable information, like data for studying the science of fishes but also for learning more about our environment in California,” Frable said.

Credit: Jay Beiler
Pictures were taken on November 13 at 4:40 PM near the surf line at Blacks Beach in San Diego, CA.

This particular Pacific Footballfish was not recovered from Blacks Beach and Frable believes the tide most likely carried it back into the ocean.

Frable says if you see an unusual fish, you should not touch it or try and take it home. 

Let the lifeguards know about it or you can reach out to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. To contact them, just go to our HELP button.

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