Cobia Fish May Soon Threaten Southern California Waters

By on February 23, 2016

After a daring escape from an aquaculture facility in Ecuador only a few months ago, tens of thousands of cobia fish are making a move to the north. So far, they have been spotted as far up as Panama, according to a release from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The worry for areas up and down the West Coast of the United States is that the arrival of the new species will spell a huge upset for aquatic food chains and the broader ecosystems they inhabit. Experts at the university think that there is about a 50-50 chance that the cobia fish will make it to the waters off California, which could result in a mass disturbance in biodiversity.

If such an incursion were to happen, it would mark the first time that waters off Southern California were hit by a large and voracious non-native species, scientists say. And the effects of such an invasion are hard to predict. Cobia fish are generalists, meaning they eat lots of things, and could very easily compete for food with native species like yellowtails and kelp bass.

Top image: Cobia (Rachycentron cnadum). (Credit: D.R. Robertson)

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