Japanese fish hitch ride on boat to Washington beach

By Staff
The Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Wash. (AP) — What a long and strange trip it’s been for a small striped fish native to Japan that apparently hitched a cross-Pacific ride in a small boat believed to be part of a tide of debris from that country’s March 2011 tsunami.

Washington state Fish and Wildlife Department biologists found five of the striped beakfish alive in a water-filled bait box on a 20-foot-long Japanese boat that washed ashore March 22 at Long Beach in southwest Washington.

Invasive species specialists also found a host of other Japanese species of sea anemones, cucumbers, scallops, crustaceans, and worms living in what they call the very rare “aquarium” of water that pooled inside the upright boat.

Except for one fish that the Seaside, Ore. Aquarium has agreed to quarantine and exhibit, the rest of the critters were euthanized to minimize the risk of introducing invasive species to Washington, said biologist Allen Pleus.

The surviving beakfish will go on display at the aquarium, The Oregonian reported. Curator Keith Chandler says his staff dubbed it the “tsunami fish.”

“It’s pretty cool. It’s about 4 inches long,” Chandler told the newspaper. “We’re trying to give it different things to eat … and it may have eaten, but it’s a shy little guy.”

Researcher John Chapman at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport is just back from a trip to Japan. He calls the find “stunning.”

“We said this couldn’t happen,” he said. “And nature is like, ‘oh yes it can.’ ”

Chapman says the fish is probably young since mature beakfish turn black. They can grow as long as 15 inches.

“There were five fish total we found in the boat’s compartment, and this is the first time we’ve seen vertebrates come ashore in tsunami debris,” Bruce Kauffman, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Montesano, told The Seattle Times. “Finding these fish alive was totally unexpected.”

So how did the creatures survive such a trip?

The boat apparently drifted bow up, with its stern below the water’s surface.

The containment area there that was open to the ocean “became a little cave of refuge,” Pleus said. “The fish could go out to feed and come back in. The boat was their home, their house.”

It’s common for fish to associate with larger debris floating in the ocean, but “nobody’s seen fish that have traveled with debris this distance,” Pleus said, adding, “It indicates there could be other fish floating with debris that we never see.”

Most such debris gets roughed up in the surf as it nears shore, which would disperse any fish, but Pleus says this boat came ashore upright.

All of which raises some troubling questions.

“There could be other types of fish associated with this debris that we don’t see, but down the line, we could find new populations of fish established on the coast,” Pleus said.

The other euthanized creatures — at least 30 different species — were preserved and sent to scientists around the country for analysis, he said.

The boat, bearing the name “Saisho-Maru,” was removed from the beach. (end)

Leave a Reply

Save the date! — SEPTEMBER 19, 2014


Amazing Women Mentors: Volunteering as a way of life
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.—1:30 p.m.
WHERE: China Harbor Restaurant, 2040 Westlake Ave. N., Seattle
TICKETS: 206-223-0623, rsvp@nwasianweekly.com

Community Calendar

Weekly E-Newsletter

READ NWAW ONLINE!

Follow our tweets

Do you like us?

  1. We welcome any feedback, questions or comments
  1. Are you the organizer of an Asian/Pacific Islander community event? Just fill out the following form at least 14 days in advance of your event and we’ll do our best to include it in our calendar. Please fill out the information as completely as possible. Failure to do so may result in your event not making it in the calendar.

Photos on flickr