Scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center are examining a handful of Japanese fish that may have survived a nearly two-year trip aboard a small fishing boat torn off the Japanese coast by the 2011 tsunami.
The fish – Oplegnathus fasciatus, known as Barred knifejaw or Striped beakperch – were found in the bottom of a Japanese boat that washed ashore at Long Beach, WA on March 22. The vessel is one of a growing number of large items cast to sea by the Japanese tsunami that have made their way across the ocean to Pacific Northwest shores.
Sam Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s invasive species specialist, said the fish species normally are found only as far east as Hawaii. Scientists aren’t yet sure whether the fish traveled all the way from Japan, or if they somehow got onboard the derelict vessel as it crossed the ocean. “Either way, it’s an interesting case of organisms ‘rafting’ across the ocean,” Chan said.
OSU’s Jessica Miller, a marine fisheries ecologist with the HMSC-based Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, as four of the fish and is examining their stomach contents and otoliths (specialized bones found in the ears of fish and other species) for insight into what the fish had been eating and the environmental conditions they encountered during their transit. The fifth fish is on display at the Seaside Aquarium.
- Live tsunami fish take slow boat to Washington (NBC News coverage)
- NOAA’s Japanese tsunami debris page
- Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Japanese tsunami debris updates and reporting page
- Oregon Sea Grant’s aquatic invasive species program