You may have seen me florescent orange, ebbing and flowing with tidal surges against the dark backdrop of the sea floor. If you have snorkeled, swam, or kayaked near La Jolla Cove (in the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve) you may have noticed me curiously pecking away at exposed sections of rocky reef in search of tidbits of food, my favorite being small invertebrates. Just like you I also have a home and at a certain age I built myself a house in order to find a mate. My mate or mates lay eggs in the rocky substrate that I maintain and fiercely protect. I have been known to aggressively attack anything swimming too close to my developing eggs… even humans! Because of my charisma and tenacity I was named the California state marine fish and was also the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ “red fish” in the popular story of Cat in the Hat.
Why should humans care about me?
I am known to many scientists as an indicator species. My presence or absence around rocky reefs is an indication of multiple levels of local acute ecological health. Obviously my bright orange color allows for divers to count those of my species with more ease than cryptic or camouflaged fish of another. This is helpful to acquire more accurate and consistent counts. My existence depends on my invertebrate food source which is highly susceptible to poor water quality. So it is important for you… San Diego county humans… to be ocean minded and help to keep my ocean water clean.
If you would like to help in the conservation of my species there are ample volunteer opportunities with WILDCOAST during Tijuana River Action Month. You have the chance to join forces with WILDCOAST and the Tijuana River Action Network (TRAN) to perform large scale estuary cleanups that have a direct positive impact on water quality in San Diego county. Clean up events began September 17th and run consecutive Saturdays until October 15th. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on how to get involved.
Mr. Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus
Photo by Briana Smith
Image by Tadas Jusionis (@tadas_ontus)