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May 04, 2010

Bluefin Blitz San Diego Beaches

Disoriented and exhausted by the storm surge, the tuna ended up on the beach...

It may sound like another big-fish story, but a few days after a series of heavier-than-usual coastal storms battered San Diego in January, bluefin tuna began swimming right into the wash at Imperial Beach in large numbers. Experts think the valuable bluefin escaped from farming pens operated off the coast of northern Baja along the Coronado Islands. Disoriented and exhausted by the storm surge, the tuna ended up on the beach amid the big swells. Neither the Mexican firm that operates the Coronado pens nor the stateside management company that sells the harvest would comment.

Since the late 1990s, bluefin have been a cash crop for Mexico, with pens down the coast of Baja as far south as Ensenada. Baja now generates at least 10 percent of Japan's $350 million fish imports.

San Diego-based photojournalist Robert Benson was in the right place at the right time. "I saw the big dorsal fin of a tuna thrashing around in waist-deep water," Benson says. He waded into the surf with a friend, and they managed to catch that fish by hand, along with a second.

Some took it more seriously, Benson says, hearing of a commercial fisherman who went wading that night along Imperial Beach to come away with 22 bluefin. - Dave Good, San Diego