Rare, endangered shrimp found in Costa Mesa, thanks to recent rains

For the first time, Costa Mesa officials have documented Riverside fairy shrimp in one of Fairview Park's vernal pools.
For the first time, Costa Mesa officials have documented Riverside fairy shrimp in one of Fairview Park’s vernal pools.
(Courtesy city of Costa Mesa)

Costa Mesa city officials announced Friday that they have identified two species of endangered shrimp living in pools at Fairview Park that have not previously been seen there.

Officials said Riverside fairy shrimp, invigorated by recent rainy weather, have been documented in one of the park’s vernal pools, which are essentially seasonal wetlands.

City Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman said the city also found San Diego fairy shrimp for the first time in a vernal pool east of Placentia Avenue.

The Riverside variety was discovered during an extensive survey of the park’s vernal pools throughout the recent rainy season, Sethuraman said Friday.


He said “there are very few concentrations of these shrimp” in Southern California, even in Riverside County, where they originally were found.

“We were excited to find it in our pool here,” he said.

Ten vernal pools have been identified in Fairview Park — seven on the west side of Placentia Avenue and three to the east, according to Sethuraman.

Mayor Pro Tem Sandy Genis said she was excited to hear about the discovery. The presence of another endangered species in Fairview Park, she said, validates local voters’ decision last year to approve Measure AA, which requires voter approval for several changes that could be proposed at the park.


“Next year maybe we’ll have ‘Costa Mesa fairy shrimp’ if we get enough rain,” she said with a laugh.

Tony Bomkamp, a senior biologist with Glenn Lukos Associates who consults with the city on Fairview Park, said the Riverside shrimp likely evaded discovery up to this point because “there’s never been the level of surveys that we just did this year.”

“San Diego fairy shrimp is a cold-water species, so it comes out in December and January, when the water is very cold,” he said. “Then Riverside fairy shrimp tend to come out more in February.”

Riverside fairy shrimp are slightly larger than their San Diego counterparts and can be distinguished by a reddish tint around their tail appendages. They also tend to live longer — 2 to 3 months, compared with 3 to 4 weeks for a typical San Diego fairy shrimp.


The recent rainy weather will help the city better identify and mark the boundaries of Fairview Park’s vernal pools, Sethuraman said.

“We currently have temporary fencing around the vernal pools, but we are working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to further define them,” he said. “Based on the rains, we know what the extent of these pools should be and we’ll be working ... to designate and identify the appropriate boundaries for these pools.”

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