Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) are bright orange members of the damselfish family and California’s official State marine fish.This means they are protected and cannot by fished or removed from the ocean.
The feisty fish will charge any other fish or person that comes too close to his turf.
Garibaldi are only found in the near coastal waters from Monterey Bay to Baja California and the Channel Islands. They are abundant around Catalina Island and their bright forms can easily be seen from the shore. Another good viewing spot is Gold Fish Point in La Jolla which gets it’s name for all the Garibaldi that swim below the cliffs, looking like a giant fish bowl. Garibaldi get their names for their resemblance to a flamboyant Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi who during the 1840’s battles for Italian independence would wear bright red shirts into the fight. The adult fish grow to be about a foot long and are bright orange while the juveniles wear bright blue spots until they become of age.
Garibaldi are most often found in shallow water around rock reefs and the kelp forests where they graze on algae, sponges and some invertebrates. If you get too near a Garibaldi’s lair you will immediately become aware of how territorial they are. The feisty fish will charge any other fish or person that comes too close to his turf. Every spring male Garibaldi will go to great lengths to build an attractive nest that they hope will attract females. The males will clear away any debris near their rock lair, mow down the surrounding seaweed and even eject any sea stars or urchins that happen to be near. Once everything is put in order, females will tour the various nests until they select a winner. After eggs are laid the males will guard the nest, never leaving the area unless it’s too scare off any trespassers. Besides getting in your face Garibaldi will make a thumping sound in the back of their throats that warns even human divers that they mean business, but it’s mostly bluster. So by all means grab your snorkeling gear and go see the Garibaldi- just stay off his lawn !!!