Watch CBS News

Deep-Sea Pacific Footballfish Made Famous In 'Finding Nemo' Washes Up On Encinitas Beach, Third Such Find This Year

LA JOLLA (CBSLA) — A deep-sea Pacific footballfish is now being studied at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography after washing ashore near San Diego earlier this month.

Pacific footballer fish encinitas
(credit: Ben Frable/Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

The creature, one of the largest species of anglerfish, washed ashore on Dec. 10, according to Brittany Hook of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Lifeguards at Swami's Beach in Encinitas notified scientists about the fish, which was later determined to be nearly 13 inches long and weighing 5.5 pounds.

The fish was recovered by Ben Frable, the institute's collection manager of Marine Vertebrates. He has since X-rayed the fish and collected tissue samples for genetic analysis, and it will be preserved for the institute's scientific archive. Frable said anglerfish get their name for their modified fin spin.

"And it's modified up near the front of their head, and then the tip is this little ball and inside of this is bacteria that produces bioluminescence, that glows," Frable said in a video. "And so the anglerfish can kind of move this around in front of its head with all these attachments that also have little glowing tips and use them to kind of attract prey into its mouth."

And while such fish are usually found at very deep ocean depths, Frable said "Finding Nemo" made anglerfish famous to children and fish aficionados alike.

Credit Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego
(credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego)

"So if you've seen 'Finding Nemo,' this is portrayed in 'Finding Nemo' where Dory sees a very beautiful light, swims to it, it's a giant anglerfish, very scary, they almost get eaten," he said.

Hook described the find as "extremely rare," with only 31 known specimens of this deep-sea species collected worldwide – but it's the third footballfish to wash up on California shores this year. In May, one washed ashore at Crystal Cove State Park and later became an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. Another Pacific footballfish was photographed in San Diego County's Black's Beach on Nov. 13, but scientists weren't notified until several days later and were unable to collect it.

Pacific footballfish aren't the only deep-sea creatures to wash up in California this year. Hook said a 4-foot lancetfish washed up on Dec. 1 at La Jolla Shores and has been added to the Scripps collection.

Experts say they don't have any theories as to why these deep-sea fish are washing ashore in Southern California, but if anymore are found, people should alert a lifeguard and notify the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at (858) 534-3624 or via email at

Many coastal areas of California are designated as Marine Protected Areas, so taking organisms home is prohibited.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.