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Live Fish Found In Boat Washed Up From 2011 Japanese Tsunami

Apr 05, 2013 02:43 PM EDT
Striped Beak Fish
This striped beak fish, also known as a jackknife, is one of five that washed up in Japanese tsunami debris on the Washington coast.
(Photo : Seattle Times/Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife)

Finding debris from the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 is nothing new along America's west coast. So when a small skiff bearing the name Saisho-Maru was found along the Washington coast, people weren't surprised. That is until they looked inside and found stowaways.

Five fish native to the waters of Japan were found inside the skiff, though only one is still alive, according to a report by the Seattle Times blog. Officials report this is the first time a live vertebrate has been found amid tsunami debris.

"The fish were found in a compartment in the very back of the boat that appeared to have been enclosed at one point, but didn't have a lid anymore," said Leanna Reuss, the tsunami debris coordinator for AmeriCorp in Long Beach, where the skiff was found, the Times reported.

"It looked like most of the boat was floating underwater, and the fish used it (the compartment) as a shelter to stay alive," Reuss said. "Otherwise I don't think they could have survived the long drift across the ocean."

The compartment where the fish may have survived for more than two years contained enough sealife growth to sustain the fish for their long journey.

Known as knifejaw or striped beak fish, the palm-sized fish are native to the waters of east Asia, but are also seen in Hawaii. It was unclear whether the fish were brought from Japan or picked up somewhere along the way.

When the tsunami hit Japan's eastern coast on March 11, 2011 it dragged an estimated 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

While the Japanese government has not yet confirmed skiff was lost in the tsunami, the boat reportedly has a registration number from a region where the tsunami hit, according to LiveScience.

The boat also contained several other forms of sealife including crabs, marine worms, scallops, a sea cucumber and algae, making it a suitable miniature ecosystem for the fish.

"In this particular case, the water conditions were right and the boat landed upright and was basically washed ashore," said Allen Pleus, the aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It had a nice 20- to 30-gallon aquarium intact in the back."

Only one of the fish is still alive. It is reportedly being kept at Seaside Aquarium in Oregon, where it will go on display once it is healthy.

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