The waters off La Jolla in San Diego were filled with anchovies Tuesday and Wednesday as a massive school of the fish migrated, leading to a spectacular sight caught on tape by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
According to Scripps, the giant school of northern anchovies formed a dark band off La Jolla, near the Scripps Pier, swimming quickly through the area.
The anchovies returned Wednesday, drawing a number of snorkelers, surfers and swimmers to jump in the water right away to swim with millions of anchovies.
San Diego-based Scripps scientists said they haven’t seen such an aggregation in more than 30 years, and said it’s unclear why the large school moved into shallow waters off the coast.
They’re still studying the phenomenon, and members of the Scripps Marine Vertebrate Collection have gathered samples for the study.
A marine biologist said the schools are typically located further off shore where they’re not generally seen by the public.
Snorkeler Alexa Alldredge described the anchovy encounter on Wednesday.
“We were able to dive underneath them, though you’d get kind of dizzy cause they were going all kinds of directions," she said. "But coming back up, they’d just open up for you kind of like a little fish vortex.”
Some animals seized the rare encounter to snack on the anchovies. A few leopard sharks were spotted as well as a sea lion.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), northern anchovy is the species found and commercially harvested off the West Coast. Today, it is used as valuable bait fishery. Its European counterpart, Engraulis encrasicolus, is the anchovy best known in the culinary world.
The large school appeared to be heading north late Wednesday afternoon.