On an epic two-year journey across the Pacific, a bait box in a Japanese boat turned into an aquarium when five striped beakfish made it their home.
The 6-metre fibreglass boat probably started off from Japan when the tsunami hit in March 2011. For some time, debris disloged by the giant wave has been turning up on the US west coast, usually loaded with marine plants and invertebrates such as limpets and barnacles. But this is the first time that live fish have been found after the 7600-kilometre journey.
The fish, along with other Japanese sea creatures, washed up at Long Beach, Washington, last month. Allen Pleus, the aquatic invasive species coordinator at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, believes that the boat managed to float upright, with its stern a few feet under the ocean's surface. The bait box became a "little cave" where the fish could stay.
The striped beakfish (Oplegnathus fasciatus) is a tropical fish found primarily in shallow waters around the Japanese coast. The fish that hitched a ride were about 11 centimetres long. They appear to have survived by feeding on other organisms in the boat.
Image by Allen Pleus/Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife/AP