by Melanie Camp
On Saturday night April 23, Venice Beach was teaming with people, and fish. It was the 20th anniversary of the Venice Oceanarium’s Grunion Run Party and at 11pm hundreds of people packed the shoreline waiting, watching, excited to see what the tide would bring in.
Kids shrieked as wave by wave grunion surfed into the shore to perform their unique mating ritual. Once on the shore a female fish would dig a nest in the wet sand with her tail, twisting her body until she was buried down to her gills with only her head sticking up. As she deposited her eggs in the nest, male fish would squiggle around her in the wet sand and fertilize the eggs.
A local “museum without walls,” each year the Oceanarium collects some of the fertilized eggs to hatch as part of their research. They later release the baby fish into the bay.
Venice Oceanarium Director Tim Rudnick describes it as “a big orgy for the fish.” The organization’s Grunion Run Party did not disappoint the hundreds that turned up to watch the bizarre mating ritual of the Grunion fish.
Spawning only takes 30 seconds but some fish remained stranded on the beach for several minutes as they waited a ride out on the next wave. This was where many local kids stepped in, scooping up fish and helping them back into the ocean.
“It feels like you’re Superman,” said Arkar, a Venice local who had headed to the beach for his first Grunion Run. He and his friends had helped free about 40 grunion that had been tangled in a clump of seaweed near the Breakwater.
With Venice Beach closed, just after midnight, LAPD swung by to clear the beach. telling revelers to head to bed and leave the fish to their business.
Tim Rudnick is the director of the Venice Oceanarium, “Witnessing this event is life-changing. You’ll never feel the same about L.A. and you will never forget it. These memories are especially vivid for kids,” Rudnick said.