WILDCOAST – A voice for the coast and the ocean

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOR: CALIFORNIA HALIBUT

ocean

Hi! My name is the California halibut, also known as the Paralichthys californicus if you want to be scientific about it! As California halibut, we thrive in a wide range of locations along the Pacific coastline between the Olympic Peninsula (located in Northern Washington) down through Baja California, Mexico.  This beautiful coastline has many incredible ecosystems including mangrove forests, chains of small islands, and gray whale breeding lagoons. WILDCOAST is helping to conserve ecosystems all along our coast both in the US and Mexico through the establishment and management of protected areas such as Magdalena Bay on the Baja California peninsula. This important gray whale breeding lagoon is the furthest south you will most likely find me, so I am very grateful that WILDCOAST is helping to protect 3,700 acres of mangroves in just this area alone!  

So who am I? I kind of look like a funny hybrid between a stingray and a fish! Some people call us “flatfish”, because we don’t swim vertically, we swim horizontally close to the seafloor, much like a stingray!! Think of a pancake swimming along the bottom of the ocean. If you are into Disney trivia, Flounder from The Little Mermaid was not actually a flounder. If he had been, he would have looked very similar to the halibut, as flounders are flat fish closely related to the halibut! We look so similar to flounders, in fact, that many people in California call us a flounder!  

Believe it or not, but as I grow older, one of my eyes will move from one side of my body to the other, because when I’m all grown up I will swim on my side. It’s kind of like how humans are right handed or left handed! I can weigh between 6 and 30 pounds, but I sure do make it look good! Us California halibut feed near shore on anchovies, sardines and other fish; however, in bays we are also known to feed on crustaceans and amphipods (tiny creatures such as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, prawns, krill, etc.). One way that I catch my prey is by blending in with my surroundings, which normally consists of sand or loose gravel on the ocean floor. Scientists call this camouflage! I’m an ambush hunter, which means I like to sneak up to my prey right until I pounce. Kind of like a cat!

 

Why should you care?

Often times you can find flatfish like me in bays and estuaries. But sometimes life doesn’t always go swimmingly in the big blue. Dredging along these bodies of water is destroying our habitat!! Along with that, we apparently make for a good meal, so fishing for us is common in most coastal communities throughout our range.

Dredging and filling, is a term used to define the process of removing the excess sediment from the bottom of certain bodies of water. In some cases this is done in order to remove contaminants present in the soil. As a result of this, sediment, rocks, plants, algae and animals (like me!) are removed or destroyed.  It’s important to protect ecosystems such as this because in these locations there are a lot of mangrove forests. Mangroves are carbon-storing superheroes, sequestering four to five times more carbon than other plants. When humans dredge they take away the mangroves’ superpowers, affecting not only the ocean, but the future of humans as well!

Not only does this affect our species, habitat, and especially the mangrove forests, but once this soil is broken up and removed, the contaminants spread into the larger body of water. Often time estuaries and bays flow in and out of the ocean. That means that because of actions such as these, our oceans are becoming even more polluted than before. This affects ALL life in and around the ocean.

For those reasons human impact is affecting our ecosystem and our ocean! This is why WILDCOAST is trying to protect our habitat. Destroying our habitat not only affects our ecosystem it affects our ocean as a whole, which in time, is catching up to us.

And don’t forget, you can be apart of the change to make sure that everything in the big blue goes swimmingly, just the way it should be. 😉 This can include using reusable water bottles, buying fewer plastic products, recycling and supporting local product production/farming!

 

This is the California halibut signing out for the day!

Enjoy your ocean and respect the MPA!

Sincerely, your California halibut!

 

P.S. Check me out in WILDCOAST’s San Diego County MPA Wildlife and Rec Guide!