CORONADO, Calif. – Various sea creatures have been washing ashore on San Diego beaches in recent months and now seahorses have been added to the list.
Coronado residents have found a few seahorses on the coastline and scientists say it’s likely because of El Niño.
Other seahorses have been found within the last month from Orange County and Coronado to Imperial Beach.
The reason it’s unusual is this particular species known as the Pacific Seahorse is normally found hanging out in the waters off central Baja all the way down to Peru.
“The frequency of us seeing them is attributed to the same time of year or the same seasons we’ve had warmer periods of warm water in the ocean which many people attribute to El Niño,” said Leslee Matsushige, curator of the Birch Aquarium Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Matsushige said warmer waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, caused by El Niño, bring many unexpected tropical species north through a mix of rising sea-surface temperatures and altered currents.
“I can still feel him moving in my hand which was just really unique and special,” said Coronado resident Laura Orozco. “It was pretty amazing. I had heard there were some seahorses washing up.”
It’s the second one in less than a week Orozco has come across.
“We were like, ‘Oh my God, his eye opened!’ And then his tail curled around his finger. I freaked out and ran down to the water and carefully got him wet and he kind of rehydrated because he was a little bit hard,” Orozco said. “Then he started swimming, wriggling and I put him in the water…and off he went.”
Orozco is aware these protected creatures are threatened and hopes anyone who finds a seahorse will make sure it gets to less choppy waters so it can find its way home.
Scripps warns that people can get arrested for removing seahorses from the beach and advises beachgoers to try to return them beyond the surf line or into a tide pool so they won’t get washed ashore.
A website helps track seahorse sightings and wants the public to report their findings.