SAN DIEGO – A rare pufferfish is under the care of crews at SeaWorld San Diego after it was found in an unlikely spot earlier this month in the cold waters near Point Loma.
The cold-stunned Spot-fin Porcupinefish should have been well south of the area by now as it typically prefers warmer waters, according to Mike Hopkins, a senior animal care specialist on SeaWorld’s aquarium team. It’s not clear why the fish was so far north, but had been floating subsurface in the same area for three days before it was “carefully collected” and transported to SeaWorld.
“There are a lot of theories out there of where this fish came from,” Hopkins said Thursday, “and we have no way of knowing because I can’t ask him.”
In the weeks since the fish was collected, Hopkins said it’s been in a special pool they call a quarantine area. There, crews have been slowly raising his temperature up before reaching its preferred range of 77-78 degrees three days ago.
And on Wednesday, a breakthrough in his recovery.
“The fish ate for the first time yesterday — and he was hungry,” Hopkins said. “He ate all kinds of stuff for us yesterday.”
Several rare fish have washed up on San Diego County shores in the past few weeks, including a deceased female Pacific footballfish found at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas and the unusual deep-sea lancetfish that was found dead in early December on the sand at La Jolla Shores.
This case is hardly a first for SeaWorld crews as they’ve rescued many thousands of animals in the past 50 years.
The intention with the pufferfish, as with most rescues, is to oversee its rehabilitation before readying it to be released back into its natural environment. Hopkins said the fish will need full clearance from a veterinarian before that happens, however, because they want to be sure he’ll “thrive” when placed back in the wild.
“We would work with partnering agencies to figure out how to get him to the warmest water possible,” he said.
Need to report a distressed animal in the San Diego area? Hopkins said SeaWorld crews are “standing by to take care of them.” They can be reached at 800-541-7325 or online by clicking or tapping here.