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Environment and Energy

Warm coastal waters causing odd mix of fish

NOAA's El Niño Portal

Central Coast fisherman are reporting sightings of fish more accustomed to tropical waters, as warmer-than-normal sea temperatures persist off our shores. 

Milton Love is a research biologist at UCSB's Marine Science Institute.

He says these warm water pools we're seeing off the California Coast bring tropical fish north. He says it's hard to determine whether there will be a lasting effect, but historically there hasn't been.

"Most of this is a very transitory occurrence.  In some cases, with these really modal animals like yellow fin tuna, for instance, or hammer head sharks, they come up and then the water starts cooling off, then they go away. For other fish, they may cause some affect," said Love.

Should predictions hold, El Niño could influence sea temperatures into the winter. Love says plant life would likely still rebound. For example, giant kelp, which can die back when water warms, grows back quickly when the water cools again.

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