Late-April Update, 2010 Grunion Runs

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

We are now in the midst of the CLOSED SEASON: NO TAKE (except for photographs). The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our kindly funding agencies, define TAKE as: "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."
 Thank you for avoiding these actions! As Melissa so eloquently reminded you via e-mail, we are stewards of these wonderful fish and need to set a good example for others.

Melissa and Chris Studer and Friends
Photo by Haris Lakisic

The California Grunion is a fish of mystery. Many people who have lived in this state all their lives have never seen one. Others came across them by happy accident on a quiet moonlit walk, surprised to find these silver surfers dancing on shore.

Of course Grunion Greeters have the advantage of being trained experts! You were out in force over the end of April – early May weekend, sending in 160 reports, on pace for a record year. Of 560 people attended the training workshops, approximately half of you returned from one or more previous years of greeting the grunion, and the other half are new to the program. We are delighted with your enthusiastic participation as Citizen Scientists.

Elisa Ang at a W-4 Run
Photo by Lilian Audet

Over the course of a year, many beaches remodel and change their slope and their width. Particularly after such a stormy winter as we had last year, some beaches have been dramatically changed. Over the next few weeks and months sand will return to the shores, but there are some beaches that have held grunion runs in the past that are now not suitable, or are much smaller. This remodeling may concentrate the runs and make them heavier in one area, or it may cause the fish to move on to another sandy beach for a while.

"Scouts showed up around midnight ... by 12:15 saw some W-2 runs with lots of females digging in to leave a nice deposit. Fishes were still around at 12:45 ...cold and late ... I knew it was almost over for the night." – Chris L.

W-4 Grunion Run
Photo by Haris Lakisic

People often ask where the "best place" to go is, and which will be the "best night." Only the grunion know where and when they will run on a given night. Many factors affect their appearance on shore.

Luckily for us, the grunion run on many different shores and multiple nights. If you have missed them so far, please be patient and give it another try. In the mid-April run series, our first monitoring night was better than the second. In late April- early May series, the second of our monitoring nights was better. It is certainly possible the grunion may run on nights before or after our monitoring efforts and I welcome any reports of sighting attempts on these additional nights.

"My wife and I are from Omaha, NE where I'm on the Biology faculty at Creighton. Last night, after our arrival, we went for a beach walk, and saw grunion at about 11:30. Tonight I returned at about midnight, and the numbers were much larger. Not surprisingly, more and more people came out to see the run. People were generally quite well behaved." -–John Schalles

Tourist-Friendly Grunion
Photo by John Schalles

SAFETY ALERT: The wild waves we enjoy watching not only stir up the sand but may pose a risk to people on shore. Unpredictable "sleeper waves" much larger than the surrounding waves may occur without warning and may sweep high over areas that were previously dry. Please be sure to leave plenty of room above the reach of the waves on shore to escape from any large wave that may occur during your observations. On bluff backed beaches, stay well away from the bluffs as many are unstable. As always, if you spot any hazardous conditions, please let us know so we can evaluate the suitability of the site for other volunteers.

"The sandy areas get narrower, forcing observers to get progressively closer to the sandstone bluffs/cliffs that have been known to collapse. During the day, lifeguards constantly warn people to stay away from the base of these cliffs. This can be a serious danger; there was a death several years ago in the Leucadia area when a cliff collapsed onto a person and last year a cliff covered the belongings of a surfer including a surfboard that was destroyed." Jim Elliott

Wet and Wild Grunion
Photo by Dan Harding

"I had two first timers with me who were really excited and had a great time. They're looking forward to going out again. Thank you for letting us partake in this event."--Remy Chong

"It was incredible! It was a decent run up until 12:30am,
then, after everyone else had left the entire beach was covered in
fish!" Floris V.

"I last saw grunion when I lived at a beach near Ventura 40 years ago!! It was pretty exciting for me to see them again." -- Martha Ford

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

Gulls are exempt from the "no take" regulations.
Photo by Karen Martin


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