Giant 15×330-foot anchovies school extends for miles

LA JOLLA, Calif. (CNN/KGTV) — Usually, we only see anchovies on pizza.

But researchers spotted a school of wild California anchovies so big it rivals anything seen off the San Diego Coast in three decades.

“It was an amazing experience — thousands and thousands of fish,” said Jenn Moffatt, with Birch Aquarium. “And when you dive down into the school, they respond to you; they swim off in all sorts of directions. They’ll swim around you, behind you.  You can’t see where they start and where they end.”

Moffatt was one of the lucky ones to swim with the fishes – a massive cloud of fish.

Snorkelers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shot the video that shows not thousands, but millions of anchovies.

“We could see schools extending all the way from the point in La Jolla to as far as you could see to the north of us,” said Scripps marine biology professor Philip Hastings.

The black band of fish extended for several miles and extended an estimated 15 feet deep and 330 feet wide. Although it’s not unusual for northern anchovies to swim in schools, a school this big is unheard of — especially this far south where the water is so warm.

Water temperatures in that spot are hovering around 75 degrees.

“So it’s not really clear if the high water temperature affected their behavior, causing them to come into shore or not,” said Hastings. “It seems more likely that warmer water would force them off shore, so it’s really kind of a mystery as to why they’ve aggregated here in such massive numbers.”

Some divers who swam below the school said it was a complete blackout above.

They were the lucky ones, because almost as quickly as the massive school of anchovies formed, it also disappeared.

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