Protect Rare “Walking” Fish from Overhunting


Target: Charlton H. Bonham, Department of Fish and Wildlife Director

Goal: Limit the months during which rare “walking”  fish may be harvested

Favoring beaches from Santa Barbara, California to Puerto Abreojo in Baja California, the “walking” fish, known as grunion, is found nowhere else in the world. The species is known for the wriggling motions the females make while burying into the sand to lay their eggs, a behavior that attracts male fish to come fertilize the eggs. Rolling in with the tide during new and full moons, this five- to six-inch-long fish has become an icon throughout Southern California. Yet, relentless waterfront construction and recreational overhunting continue to infringe on grunion spawning grounds. Push to restrict hunting of grunion to allow populations of these rare fish to restore themselves.

Sightings of healthy grunion populations are increasingly rare. In July 2014, in the middle of the grunion’s March to August mating season, only one grunion was seen near Malibu, according to a report in National Geographic News. The loss of these fish, a staple food for birds like herons and terns, could have devastating ecological repercussions. On the other hand, few humans actually eat grunion nowadays, preferring to gather them for sport.

While the grant-dependent program protecting the grunion has run low on funds, citizen science programs, which monitor grunion populations through local volunteers, are still thriving. The grunion continues to occupy a special place in the minds and hearts of all who witness its peculiar dance. Please help restrict recreational overhunting, this lingering threat to grunions’ survival. By signing the petition below, you can help conserve this vital fish, a crucial indicator of beach health and a cherished species among Southern California communities.


Dear Director Bonham,

I am writing in regard to the severe threat that recreational overhunting poses to the rare “walking” fish known as the grunion. Found only along beaches throughout Southern California and Baja California, the grunion plays a vital ecological role, occupying the base of the food chain and sustaining shore birds like herons and terns. So-named for the wriggling movements they make while “walking” on beaches, the grunion has become a regional icon, captivating all who witness its unique dance.

Most people who gather grunion nowadays rarely end up eating the fish. This form of sport, perhaps unintended to be harmful, can be devastating to the fish. In fact, one large group of human hunters can decimate grunion populations.

I urge you to extend the ban on hunting grunion, making the month of June part of the closed season and thereby restricting catches to March, July, and August. Your leadership can help send the message that we may best enjoy these fish by observing their natural behavior rather than snatching them from the waters that are their home.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Andrew Chen via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. “Recreational hunting”? Are you serious? What sort of slime would consider murdering any creature “recreational”?

  2. Lisa Finnigan says:

    Why not a full ban?

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