Last week, thanks to a good low tide, I got to explore a stand of Ahnfeltiopsis. The surf was bigger than I wished, but the grove was upon me, and my attention was on the sand-loving red algae people call forked seaweed.
While I was solving seaweeds, the swash left a 75 mm prize flopping in the sand. Greenling, even juveniles, don’t often find themselves stranded on wet sand. How did it come to this? A wave may have swept it from shelter; maybe a gull plucked it then lost it; maybe it was me – intruder in the Ahnfeltiopsis.
In hopes of getting ideas about identification, I posted photos on the TOS Facebook page. I got some ideas for which I am grateful. And I got a question I didn’t expect. Did I help it get to deeper water? The answer is, I released it in a low tide pool where I took the photo above. It could rest and with the rise of tide, find its way to deeper water. Does that sound like a good choice?
Stranded animal choices are hard because they involve tradeoffs; here are mine. A specimen would have simplified a tricky identification problem, but on this day I didn’t have the stomach for pickling. Ignoring it, letting nature take its course, would have been a reasonable choice, but I wanted a photo. Releasing it in deeper water was an option, but the surge was strong and it didn’t seem right to leave an exhausted fish to the swash. The alternative I chose was perfect. Or was it? At 75 mm, my greenling was the largest predator in the pool. I wonder what happened to the tiny tidepool sculpins already living there. Oops.
What would you have done?
Thanks to the way I handled tradeoffs, I have no specimen to show for my efforts and I haven’t been able to identify the fish featured here to species, or even genus. I think it’s a juvenile greenling, maybe Hexagrammos. If you can confirm my guess or have ideas about what species it is, please let me know.