Marine experts study rare fish that washed up in San Diego

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LA JOLLA, Calif. — A four-foot-long lancetfish washed up on the shore of La Jolla last week, giving marine experts a look at a rarely seen deep-sea fish.

“Lancet fish are mid-water species of lizard fish, a broader group of fishes, that are found throughout the world’s ocean,” said Ben Frable, Marine Vertebrate Collection Manager at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The lancetfish typically live 600 to 6,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in what’s called the mid-ocean or “twilight zone.” There have only been 17 found in San Diego since 1947 – and the last one was found in 1996. 

“Lancetfish are long, very streamline fins, silvery, iridescent, oily sheen silver,” Frable said. “Really beautiful and stunning to see in person.”

According to Frable, in a timely coincidence, two weeks earlier an even rarer find washed up on Torrey Pines State Beach: a pacific football fish, or better known as the deep-sea anglerfish. 

“Luckily, we have that record and that fish species is particularly rare,” Frable said. “There’s only about 30 specimens of those that have ever been collected.”

Not much is known about either fish, like how long they live or its reproductive cycle, but Frable says the largest lancetfish specimen ever collected was more than six feet.

“Each one of these specimens can be really important,” Frable said.

If anyone stumbles upon an unusual sea creature, marine officials advise to report it to a lifeguard or email Scripps Institution of Oceanography so that they may collect and preserve it. 

“We don’t get to encounter or interact with these organisms that often, so every single one can provide more insight and more knowledge to better understand our planet,” Frable said.

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