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Thousands of dead anchovies wash ashore and fall from the sky in California

MARIN COUNTY, California — The shores of Bolinas Lagoon in Northern California’s Marin County were seemingly painted silver by a school of anchovies.

Photos and video shared with KGO-TV in San Francisco show the mass extinction that took place earlier this week.

“This is just one of those cases where all we can see is the sheer number of these schools of fish,” Marin County Parks Gov. Max Korten told KGO. “So it’s kind of amazing.”

Amazing and an enigma! There is still uncertainty as to why the thousands of fish ended up here.

Referring to biologists, Korten explained, “What probably happened is, you know, some kind of predator encountered a school of anchovy out in the ocean somewhere near the mouth of the Bolinas Lagoon.”

He said this may have pushed the anchovies farther toward the shallow water, where they sucked up the limited oxygen and suffocated.

Volunteer researcher Jim Ervin said while that end is likely, he believes something else may have lured the anchovies into the lagoon.

“Hungry anchovies go where the food is,” shared Ervin.

Ervin, currently a volunteer researcher at UC Davis’ Otolith Geochemistry and Fish Ecology Lab, retired in 2018 after 27 years with the City of San Jose Environmental Protection Agency. He was also the Compliance Manager for the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Plant.

Ervin told KGO this La Nina year is creating more food production and the foraging fish are following. He explained the cool water is bringing in more anchovies than we have seen off our coast and in the bay in the last 10 years.

The abundance is good news for seabirds. It’s interesting news for anyone who sees anchovies far from water.

“People might not want to imagine that, but I think they puke,” Ervin said. “I think they fly over, just can’t take it anymore, have to let go. I could imagine that.”

He continued, “They party so much. There are more fish than they know what to do with.”

As more is done to determine what led to the mass deaths, officials say don’t panic. Similar mass extinctions have occurred several times in recent decades.

“My biggest word of assurance, I think, is that the anchovy populations are booming and going bust,” shared Ervin. “And we are in a boom year. Then they drive such things to shore and unfortunately sometimes they beat themselves up.”

Ervin said there’s a lot to be learned from the anchovies washed ashore. In particular, information on genetics.

“While they grow up, will they stay at bay? Or do some of them actually migrate out to sea and join the larger population,” he asked.

Korten of Marin County Parks described the Bolinas Lagoon as a fairly fragile ecosystem and encourages anyone who wants to see the anchovies to be mindful of the environment.

“It’s home to a really rich amount of marine life,” he said. “We just asked if anyone was going close. Be careful and disturb the animals, seals and other things that make their home there.”

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/raining-fish-in-san-francisco-bolina-lagoon-dead-anchovies-marin-county/12015241/ Thousands of dead anchovies wash ashore and fall from the sky in California

Dais Johnston

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