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Alien Sighting: Spotfin Butterflyfish

Updated: Jan 19

The bags we use help us handle between 2,000-250 oysters depending on their size. These same bags help protect oysters from predators. But for a community of estuarial life, these bags start as safe havens to hide but soon become a prison they cannot escape. That is, until we crack open the bag to reveal these involuntary inmates. This is a short list of species we commonly encounter and regularly jail-break:


  • Oyster Toadfish, Juvenile Sheepshead & Grunts

  • Blennies, Gobies & Skilletfish

  • Blue Crabs & Mud Crabs


The Maryland Biodiversity Project has only 9 Spotfins sightings on record. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Trawl Survey rarely encounters the Spotfin but reports that all records are of juveniles that have strayed North presumably on tropical currents.

You bet Frank was surprised when he came across this cute "Finding Nemo" character. This is a Spotfin Butterfly Fish and is a semi-tropical reef fish that is considered rare in the Chesapeake Bay. Some theories suggest that such fish are accidentally caught in the ballasts of container ships that travel through tropical waters on their way to the Mid-Atlantic. Likely they simply stray here from southern areas. Yet in either case, how did this fish get into a bag with openings less than 1/4 inch across? The fish must have entered quite small and grew up inside our gear. What a trooper!

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