Japanese ‘tsunami fish’ off the coast of California seven years later

The barred knifejaw is spotted almost 5000 miles from home.

In March 2011, Japan experienced a massive tsunami, which was the aftermath of a 9.1 earthquake, the largest the country has ever known. It resulted in the deaths of an estimated 29,000 people and caused about $235 billion in damages, making it the deadliest natural disaster in history.

During the aftermath of the devastating events have a lasting impact on the Japanese population, also upended a large number of marine life, including the redirection of the excluded knifejaw almost 5000 miles from home.

Divers have recently found the excluded knifejaw, a fish native only to Japan, swim in the waters of the Bay of Monterey, California, according to CNN. The fish is known for its zebra-like appearance (he has black and white stripes), has been spotted several times in the area and probably emigrated halfway across the world because of the 2011 natural disasters.


“It can’t be confused with a local fish,” said diver Nicholas Ta, who has been in the area nearly every day for five years. “Other fish are kind of camouflaged and they have the kind of competition the environment around them,” he told the news outlet.

According to 2017, a study in the journal Science, researchers believe 289 species were transported over the span of six years as a result of the 2011 East Japan earthquake and the subsequent tsunami.

“Most of this spread occurred at the nonbiodegradable objects, resulting in the longest documented transoceanic the survival and distribution of the coastal types of rafting,” the study abstract reads. “The extend of the shoreline infrastructure is of increased global sources of plastic materials that are available for research to the colonization and also works together with the climate change-induced storms of increasing severity to remove waste in the oceans. In turn, increased ocean rafting may intensify species invasions.”

This approach is supported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who wrote that she “probably” was introduced to the area by means of “rafting on the tsunami debris.”

The first barred knifejaw was originally spotted in December 2014, but the Ta did not recognize it. It was only later, after his friend Dennis Lewis helped him identify the fish and alert him to be on the lookout for in the future.

Known as Oplegnathus fasciatus, the barred knifejaw is especially valuable in Japan, both for food and as a game fish.


The USGS said that the excluded knifejaw breeds from April to July and the boy floating between the seaweed and eat zooplankton. Adults, who have sharp beaks, feeding on snails and barnacles.

It is unclear what the impact of the species in the new ecosystem, “if no research is done to determine how it has affected the ecosystem in the invaded range,” the USGS added.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular