Marine Biology

First Live Vertebrates come Ashore with Tsunami Debris in Washington State

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"First Live Vertebrates come Ashore with Tsunami Debris in Washington State"
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There are fish tales, and then there are tsunami fish tales.

In a Japanese fishing boat recently found along the coast of Washington state arrived some most unusual visitors: five living beakfish (native to the warmer waters of Asia). These fish, as well as other sea creatures, including “a host of other Japanese species of sea anemones, cucumbers, scallops, crustaceans and worms” were found onboard the 20-foot Japanese boat, according to the local “Columbian” newspaper.

These sea creatures are part of the debris that continues to wash up along the West Coast from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan. Their cross-Pacific ride ended on March 22, 2013, in Long Beach, Washington. Invasive species specialists from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered the small striped fish alive in an “aquarium” (a water-filled bait box) aboard the Japanese fishing boat, the Saisho-Muro.

According to CNN, it is not unusual for fish to travel with the tsunami debris, although it is exceptional that these fish made it alive for a journey more than 5,000 miles across the ocean from Japan.

One “tsunami fish” allowed to survive

Due to worries about invasive species, of the five living fish arriving via the debris, only one was allowed to survive, and that fish now resides (quarantined, of course) in a Seaside, Oregon, Aquarium. Curator of the Seaside Aquarium Keith Chandler noted that the fish is on display and has been dubbed “tsunami fish” by his staff.

Asked about the recent traveler, Chandler noted, “It’s pretty cool. It’s about 4 inches long, We’re trying to get it different things to eat … and it may have eaten, but it’s a shy little guy.” Oregon State University Researcher John Chapman calls the discovery “stunning” and noted that striped beakfish can grow to 15 inches and turn black, so this fish is likely still very young.

Noted State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Bruce Kauffman, “This is the first time we’ve seen vertebrates come ashore in tsunami debris. Finding these fish alive was totally unexpected.”

What other fish are out there?

The discovery of the live beakfish was unusual, as most tsunami debris gets destroyed in the crashing waves as it approaches the West Coast’s shoreline. This boat arrived upright, which allowed the fish to remain protected inside. What other species have traveled to the West Coast and remain in the ocean is unknown at this point.

So far, however, at least 30 invasive species of “tsunami” sea creatures have been euthanized, preserved and sent around the country for more research and analysis by scientists.

More about this author: Christine Zibas

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