San Jose State University’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) experts have a theory about how one fish swimming in the waters of the Monterey Bay ended up far from its natural habitat along the shores of Japan. A black-and-white striped fish known as the barred knifejaw, divers interviewed by CNN reporters described it as distinctive from the native fish in the cold and murky waters of the Bay.
Jonathan Geller, a professor and researcher based at SJSU’s MLML, told CNN on Dec. 13 that the fish likely landed in California as an after effect of the 2011 tsunami. Geller co-authored an article in Science that notes 289 living Japanese coastal species documented along the shores of Hawaii and North America following the tsunami in 2011.
“These currents circle around and around and then just depending on local conditions the water may move on shore,” Geller said. “This fish stands out because it looks quite alien in our water and it’s definitely a species we haven’t seen here before this event,” Geller told CNN, adding that many of the other species found looked like they belong.
Colleague and MLML researcher Rick Starr said the fish is unlikely to become invasive as fish from warmer areas can survive in cold water, but may not be able to reproduce.
“People have seen multiple fish, it’s not just one, but they’re all the same size indicating that they’re not offspring,” Starr said. “We’re not seeing multiple different size classes, so the best guess right now is that these fish are all older fish that haven’t reproduced.