Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon State University are in possession of a striped knifejaw, a fish native to Japan, caught in a crab pot close to Port Orford. The striped knifejaw is also sometimes referred to as a striped beakfish or barred knifejaw.
Experts are still unsure if a striped knifejaw appearing in Oregon waters is related to the tsunami that happened in Japan in 2011 or if the non-native species has already established a presence in state waters. They have also not ruled out that the fish was merely carried over in some ship's ballast water or it was brought to the country as an aquarium fish and was released locally. As it is the second knifejaw to be discovered in two years, there is definite interest in how the fish got to Oregon.
In 2013, five knifejaws were discovered in a boat that had drifted from Japan to Long Beach, Washington. Four of the fish had to be euthanized while one was kept alive and brought to the Seaside Aquarium where it is still thriving today. Debris from the Japanese tsunami are still finding their way to Washington and Oregon so it is not ridiculous to associate the Port Orford's knifejaw as having been transported by marine debris from Japan, most especially when the young of the species are attracted to floating objects in the water.
At about 13 centimeters long, the knifejaw recently found is not yet a fully grown adult. Tom Calvanese, an OSU graduate student with the Oregon Sea Grant, worked with crabbers to safely secure the exotic fish.
"We are fortunate to have this occur in a fishing community that is ocean-aware," he said.
The fisherman who discovered the fish in a crab pot identified it to be exotic and took it back alive to the shore. A fish buyer then took care of the knifejaw before Calvanese was informed, prompting the collection of the fish.
The knifejaw appears to be in good condition, although it has a small cut on its abdomen. It will be kept under quarantine until its wound heals, allowing sufficient time as well for researchers to determine if the fish is carrying any parasites or pathogens that could be a threat to native species in Oregon's waters.
The Oregon Sea Grant will continue working with crabbers and fishermen to be on the lookout for knifejaws and other non-native species finding their way to the state waters.