Pacific footballfish
The rare Pacific footballfish found at Swami’s Beach. Photo by Ben Frable / Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography confirmed Tuesday that a rare, deep-sea Pacific footballfish washed up at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas last week.

The 13-inch-long, 5-pound female fish found by lifeguards on Friday is one of only 31 known specimens collected worldwide.

This species of the anglerfish family lives at depths of 2,000 to 3,300 feet, where sunlight doesn’t penetrate and food is scarce. The fish have an unusual stalk on their heads with a phosphorescent light like a firefly that is used to attract prey.

Ben Frable, collection manager of marine vertebrates at Scripps, said researchers will collect tissue samples for genetic analysis, examine the stomach contents for insights into the deep-sea food web, and then preserve the fish for future study.

It is the third deep-sea creature to wash up in San Diego over the past month. Another Pacific footballfish was photographed near Black’s Beach on Nov. 13, although it was gone when scientists arrived.

A 4-foot lancetfish washed up on Dec. 1 at La Jolla Shores, and that fish has been added to the Scripps collection.

Experts aren’t sure why these fish are washing ashore in Southern California, and urged the public to notify lifeguards or Scripps if they see an unusual specimen on a beach.

Much of the La Jolla coast is a Marine Protected Area and taking home organisms is actually prohibited.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.