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That Trippy Time a 'Tsunami Fish' Was on Display at Oregon Coast

Published 08/18//20 at 6:11 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

That Trippy Time a 'Tsunami Fish' Was on Display at Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – The March 2011 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan and subsequent tsunami there left a long trail of objects and debris scattered to other parts of the world. The tsunami scare on the Oregon coast that night brought some of the terror home, yet obviously nothing compared to what the Japanese people experienced. Luckily nothing destructive hit the majority of this coastline (except for a handful of spots), but it did cause the ocean to cough up a myriad of oddities onto these shores. (Striped Beakfish photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

Some were worrisome, such as the living creatures that came ashore. State officials were highly concerned about destructive, invasive species arriving. In some cases a few did, though primarily attached to varied objects like a slipper, a chunk of dock, or part of a boat.

Stranger still, the debris kept coming for a few years.

One living entity that made it to the Washington coast first became a bit of an attraction here, however. Initially vaulted into the ocean deep back in 2011, one boat came ashore in 2013, first landing on the Long Beach Peninsula. When Washingtonians went to investigate they discovered a Striped Beakfish (Oplegnathus fasciatus) still alive in the debris.

Actually it was five of them that were found but the others were euthanized (at least partially because this could be an invasive species). The beakfish at first lived in a bucket at City Hall in Long Beach.


“I do not know how Long Beach got hold of it,” said aquarium manager Keith Chandler at the time. “They just called me and said they had this in a bucket.”

Feeding on small crustaceans (barnacles, crabs, and shrimp), the Striped Beakfish can reach up to 15 inches in length, the aquarium told Oregon Coast Beach Connection back in 2013. They inhabit the coral reefs of Japan and Korea.

It was a colorful creature - even for a black and white critter - and one that made Oregon coast history and likely so for Washington coast as well. It was certainly a big media attraction at the time, causing news organizations from all around the world to contact the Seaside Aquarium. At least one local media organization had been camped outside the aquarium for a day or two.

All the attention was probably appropriate as well: after all, the little guy had traveled two years and 4,000 miles, only to have his pals killed off.

Indeed, there was some tension about the fish with state authorities. Chandler wanted to put it on display and had it sitting in an isolation tank for two weeks while he awaited word about the fish from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Chandler needed their OK. They and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife still had to let him know if the fish was invasive as well. Even if the striped beakfish was an invasive species, he had no one to mate with, however.


Finally, word came from ODFW that it would be hunky dory to put the striped beakfish on display at Seaside Aquarium.

The media frenzy came and went, and so did the fish. He didn’t live much more than a few weeks. It was the first time any such tsunami creature had been put on display, however, and another first for Seaside Aquarium and the Oregon coast.

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