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Castaway: Reef Fish Edition

By Leonard Ho - Posted Apr 08, 2013 09:00 AM
Marine debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami is still washing up on distant shores. Last month (two years and ten days after the tsunami), a Japanese fishing skiff finally came ashore 5,000 miles away on a Washingon State beach. To scientists' surprise, a single reef fish survived the two year boat-ride!
Castaway: Reef Fish Edition

Set adrift on memory bliss? This beakfish is a true survivor!


Last Fish Standing

Five fish (along with numerous invertebrates) were found on the grounded 18x3 feet Japanese boat, but the only fish to survive the two year, cross-continent journey was a 5" tropical striped beakfish (Oplegnathus fasciatus, pictured right).  The lone surviving castaway was found riding inside a 20-30 gallon holding tank.  This seafarer somehow managed to survive in this floating aquarium without filtration, temperature regulation, external food source, etc. for several years.

Nature finds a way.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say this is the first time a vertebrae set adrift on debris by the Japanese tsunami has been found alive.   The beakfish is currently at the Seaside Aquarium in Oregon, no doubt in much more comfortable quarters, and we're guessing he's already a mini-celebrity.

Officials have yet to positively identify the boat as tsunami debris but its registration shows the boat originated from a region devastated by the waves.

While this is a very compelling story of survival and resilience, this beakfish also shows how it's possible for non-native species to cross great divides and potentially threaten foreign ecosystems.

The beakfish was discovered in a holding tank on this washed-ashore Japanese fishing boat

The beakfish was discovered in a holding tank on this tattered Japanese fishing boat

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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