The 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrought destruction in Japan have brought a variety of debris to the West Coast of the United States. While many types of invertebrates have made it to America, vertebrates displaced by the tsunami have not come across the ocean, until now.
According to a report in the Seattle Times, an 18-foot fiberglass skiff found March 22 near Sid Snyder Beach in Seattle contained five striped beakfish, (Oplegnathus fasciatus), all of which were alive.
“There was 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 and it is pretty unusual to find live fish,” Kauffman said.
The fish were found in the stern of the boat in a compartment that was full of enough marine life to sustain the fish. Fisheries biologists told the paper that the compartment was so full of marine life that it looked like an aquarium. They speculate that the boat floated across the Pacific Ocean partially submerged, allowing the fish to live within the compartment, which at one point had a door on it. Four of the fish were euthanized to prevent their introduction as an invasive species and the lone surviving striped beakfish is being kept in a quarantine tank at the Seaside Aquarium in Oregon, and when its health is restored, it will be put on display.
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The striped beakfish, also known as the barred knifefish or the striped beakperch is native to Japanese waters. It has also apparently been spotted in Hanauma Bay on Oahu, but that hasn’t been confirmed. It feeds on shelled invertebrates that it finds on coral reefs.