May Update for Grunion Greeters, 2017

A Message from Karen Martin, Ph.D., Pepperdine Professor of Biology

Salutations to all Grunion Greeters!

We had a strong grunion year in 2017, with over 200 reports from volunteer observers and field biologists. There were four level W5 runs reported, or 2%, a healthy amount. Runs were reported across the entire habitat range from Baja California to north of San Francisco. Christopher Huynh's photo shows the splashy fun.

Everybody on the beach!
Photo by C. Huynh.

Among the many predators observed during runs were numerous birds, including Great Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, and gulls. Elizabeth Margo snapped this view of a large male sea lion enjoying a midnight snack in the swash zone during a run.

Sea lion midnight snack.
Photo by E. Margo.

During this summer concerns were raised about beach habitat loss or disruption in several locations, including rock revetments, coastal construction projects, and beach fill operations. We are grateful to those who monitored for grunion impacts at numerous locations. We are also thankful for restoration projects that are improving beach ecology, and for the promise of new life with beach-nesting birds returning to heritage nesting grounds. Public programs at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and Birch Aquarium at Scripps continue to be a draw, as does the annual event at Doheny Beach led by the rangers. This year a new public program started at Crown Memorial State Beach, led by Naturalist Susan Ramos. Even though the grunion run at 2 in the morning at her location, she was able to persuade many local nature-lovers to join her and record their rare observations.

As summer winds down it's important to remember that the vast majority of the Essential Fish Habitat for the California Grunion, this native endemic fish, is shared with our own species' most densely populated coastline. If they are to survive, we need to work together to preserve and conserve our beach habitats.

Grunion-eye view beyond the beach.
Photo by C. Huynh.

Run by Pacific Coast Highway.
Photo by K. Martin.

Based on the reports, this year's median run was at level W2, hundreds of fish on the beach. This has been the median level reported over the previous decade, so that is reassuring. However in some of the previous few years of this decade, the median run has been lower, either W1 or even W0 in some locales. The grunion may have benefitted from the past year's El Nino-Southern Oscillation event. What will happen next year? Only time and future Grunion Greeters will tell. We are working with scientists from NASA and JPL to see if we can identify oceanographic data that will help predict where or how well the grunion will run in the future.

Thank you again for your late-night efforts to watch for this elusive fish. Even though you and I don't always see them, it is always time well spent to be on a wave-swept shore under the stars. Thanks especially to Melissa Studer for reminding us to get out there, and to all of you who went out more than once, whether or not the fish joined up with you.

Quality time with the grunion.
Photo by C. Huynh.

Thanks to all of you for your patience and persistence. We are making a difference! Connect with us on FaceBook and put the Beach Ecology Coalition as your Amazon Prime choice to help us with your purchases.

See you on the beach &emdash; and may the fish be with you!

May the fish be with you! See you on the beach.


Jason Logan styling in the hat he earned by greeting the grunion 4 or more times this season.
Photo by M. Studer.

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