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Thousands of fish pushed ashore by pelicans near Cayucos Pier

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Posted at 6:54 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-20 00:22:41-04

Thousands of fish lined the shores of the beach below the Cayucos Pier on Wednesday.

"We couldn't believe it because not only did we see hundreds of pelicans, but the sea was black with tiny fish," said Laura Stamp, visiting from England. "It was teeming. We literally couldn't see anything but the fish."

"I don't know if they were anchovies or sardines, but there was thousands of them and thousands of birds too," said Dannielle Stockstill, visiting from Fresno.

The swarm of fish also attracted whales, adding to the spectacle.

"And then we walked over along the pier and there were maybe 3 or 4 whales, so it was just fascinating and such a treat," Stamp said.

Local photographer Danna Dykstra-Coy snapped several shots of the wildlife in action.

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A surfer watches as pelicans feed on bait fish near the Cayucos Pier on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (Danna Dykstra-Coy)

Surf instructor Johnny Paneno explained why the large number of fish were present.

"Basically, we had a phytoplankton bloom last week which caused a lot of feeding fish, like anchovies, to kind of start schooling," said Johnny Paneno of Good Clean Fun Cayucos. "The pelicans ended up taking advantage of that opportunity and ended up pushing the entire feed ball to the beach where the waves kind of washed them up to the shore and, yeah, they died there."

In late spring and early summer, many emaciated pelicans washed up along the shores of the Central Coast. Wildlife experts said due to the strong spring winds, they were unable to hunt. But now they are back in action and eating well.

From the Central California to England, visitors say they have never seen anything quite like it.
"Never, ever, ever. We just felt really honored to see it all. It was great," Stamp said.

"I was amazed. That's why I'm here right now. I hope I see it again," Stockstill added.

Visitors and residents say this event was quite an anomaly and they haven't seen nearly as much activity since Wednesday.