OLYMPIA -- The El Nino watch is on.
State fisheries biologists, hoping to gauge the impacts of El Nino on marine life,
are encouraging anglers to help scientists document catches or sightings of unusual
The recent catch of a striped marlin off Westport, as well as tuna catches off the
southwest Washington coast, have led biologists to believe that El Nino is already at
work, luring fish normally found only in warmer waters to the region.
By properly documenting any unusual species that is either caught or observed
by anglers, biologists can evaluate changes in the distribution of fish populations and
become better at predicting the impacts of both El Nino and global warming.
Wayne Palsson(cq), a fisheries biologist with the Washington Department of Fish
and Wildlife, said that as long as the warm pool of water caused by El Nino remains in
the region, anglers may observe more rare or unusual species. For instance, striped
marlin are rarely observed north of Santa Barbara, although a few have been seen in
Oregon, Palsson said.
The last time the state experienced a strong El Nino, a phenomenon that warms
waters throughout the Pacific and triggers other meteorological changes, was in 1982-
83, Palsson said. The present El Nino appears to be stronger than that one, he said.
Anglers who believe they have observed an unusual fish should take a
photograph of the species, and record the day and time. If the species was caught,
anglers should also record the depth and temperature of the water, the size of the fish
and how it was caught.
Anglers should contact the nearest Department of Fish and Wildlife office with
the information, or contact Palsson directly at (425)379-2313.
If the angler believes they have caught a rare fish, they can freeze the specimen
and donate it to the University of Washington's Fish Collection(cq) by calling Palsson or
Brian Urbain at (206) 543-3816.