MONTEREY (KPIX 5) — Scuba divers in Monterey Bay have made a surprising discovery: an exotic warm water fish, native to the coast of Japan, surviving in the chilly waters.
It’s believed to have come here by hitchhiking on debris flows after Japan’s devastating tsunami in 2011. Japan is over 5,000 miles away and the tsunami happened over seven years ago.
The black and white striped fish is called Ishi Dai in Japanese, and it is known as the Barred Knife Jaw in English.
“As of now, it’s just one lone fish trying to fit in with the rest of the school,” said Dennis Lewis, a Divemaster with Bamboo Reef Dive Center in Monterey.
Lewis and fellow Divemaster Nicholas Ta made the discovery several weeks ago. They recently filmed the fish as it was swimming among the kelp beds at Breakwater Cove in Monterey.
“It is possible that Japanese tsunami debris did pass through Monterey, and left a smattering of individuals here,” said Ta, who believes there may be more of the so-called “tsunami fish” in Monterey Bay.
Although no one knows exactly how the fish got here, scientists at Moss Landing Marine Labs have documented other species in Monterey that came from the Japanese tsunami.
The fish have also been spotted in Oregon and Southern California.
What’s remarkable, Ta said, is the fish’s ability to survive in cold water.
“Just the endurance. The ability to survive and grow despite there being a ten degrees celsius change,” he said.
Ta’s video captured the newcomer being picked on by other native fish.
Scientists believe there is little danger of the tsunami fish becoming an invasive species because the colder water will most likely stop them from reproducing.