Warm Water Has Created Banner Season in Fishing Off Point Loma But Also Drastic Changes in Ocean Food Chain

by on September 23, 2015 · 1 comment

in California, Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego, Sports

Bob Curry w fishFisherman are having a great time these days as it’s a banner season with boatloads of bluefin tuna, dorado and yellowtail returning to the docks of Point Loma. Anglers are catching 100- to almost 200-pound bluefin tuna off our coast, further out west and up north, locals say -normally not seen up here. Usually the tropical fish are reeled in off Mexico and far off-shore, but now they’re being hooked as close as 10-20 miles off of San Diego, where water temperatures are exceptionally warm.

“Right now we’re 4 to 5 degrees above normal, … if you’re an animal living in the sea and you live at that temperature — that’s a huge change,” said Toby Garfield, director of the Environmental Research Division at Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla. Garfield says scientists have named the warm water “the blob,” which formed two years ago near Alaska and has spread down the West Coast. The warm conditions have sent mother nature into disarray, changing the upwelling winds which drive the productivity along the California coast. If productivity is reduced, a lot of different parts of the whole ecosystem start changing. Much of the fishery population has shifted north, and El Niño hasn’t even arrived yet. “We haven’t seen it this anomalously warm in the record, and at the same time, we’re having a developing El Niño,” said Garfield.

Meanwhile, unusual visitors from hammerhead sharks to tropical fish to millions of red tuna crabs are visiting local waters. David Checkley, a professor of marine biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the reduction in upwelling of cold water nutrients from the ocean floor has drastically altered the food web. “At the base of the food chain … the amount of chlorophyll or phytoplankton is lower than normal because we have fewer nutrients brought up into the surface waters,” Checkley said. Phytoplankton provide food for a wide range of sea creatures including whales, shrimp, snails, and jellyfish. “The continued poor health of the California sea lion population is likely due to a lack of forage — anchovy, sardines… perhaps squid,” Checkley said.

An algal bloom occurring along the West Coast from California up to Alaska is also a growing concern. “Those harmful algal blooms sometimes come with toxins — demoic acid that can poison marine mammals that eat fish that consume those algae,” he said. “He predicts some sea creatures will suffer through El Niño. “The winners are the recreational fishermen,” Checkley said. San Diego’s sportfishing season usually wraps up in September, but not this year. Those who organize fishing tours want the great fishing to continue into October, into November. KPBS

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Judi Curry judi September 23, 2015 at 11:54 am

What a great surprise to see my husband Bob’s picture with his prize winning fish gracing the pages of the OB Rag. It is very timely, for Monday was the anniversary of his death.

And….one other thing that would make Bob very proud is that our grandson, Cody, is one of the skipper’s on the New Seaforth out of Mission Bay. Wonder where he learned how to fish?

Thanks, Frank.

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