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Dark Band Off La Jolla Coast Was Giant School Of Northern Anchovy

Anchovy school at Scripps Pier, July 8, 2014

A school of California anchovies so big it rivals anything seen off the San Diego coast in decades was spotted off La Jolla by researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, it was announced Tuesday.

The millions of finger-sized fishes prized on pizzas and in animal feed — also called Northern anchovy — created a dark-blue band in shallow waters just off the coast when first spotted Monday, according to Scripps spokesman Mario Aguilera.

"It's not as heavy now," he said Tuesday afternoon. "Everyone at Scripps seemed to notice (the school Monday).”

Scripps scientists say they haven't seen such an aggregation in more than 30 years.

Photos showed surfers paddling out for a view below, and video was posted on the scripps.ucsd.edu website.

"Northern anchovy is the species found and commercially harvested off the West Coast," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Today, Northern anchovy is harvested mainly for use as bait in other fisheries and sometimes processed into fish meal, but it once supported a multimillion-dollar fishery as catch was sold for human consumption, for bait, and for reduction into meal, oil and soluble protein."

Fishermen turned to anchovy in the 1940s and '50s as sardine population off California dwindled.

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