A derelict fishing boat was spotted earlier today about two miles off Seal Rock. Thinking it is a tsunami damaged boat, agents from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police and Hatfield Marine Science Center motored out to inspect it.
When they arrived they realized the boat, which was covered with seaweed and algae, was broken in two. Only the bow area of the 50-footer was intact. And inside were fish tanks with yellow-tails in it – believed to have grown from larvae – which means they were in there for quite a while.
As for identifying the boat, investigators say they’re pretty sure it’s Japanese – possibly from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They say there are no definitive markings visible on the boat.
After a preliminary inspection of the boat remnants, HMSC Invasive Species researcher Dr. John Chapman determined that compared to earlier Japanese earthquake debris, this piece of debris was notably free of exotic species. As a result Port of Newport officials have volunteered to temporarily store the debris so that Chapman and his team can meticulously inspect the rest of it for any invasive species. Once that’s complete, what is left of the boat will be transported to a landfill and buried. The surviving Yellowtail fish are being donated to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Dr. Chapman says there is still an awful lot of 2011 Japanese Tsunami debris still spinning around in the gyres of the north Pacific. He said when strong southwesterly winds blow, the winds push debris circulating in those gyres toward the northeast and onto the shores of the western U.S.
In 2011, the Marine Board’s director, Scott Brewen, was appointed to lead an “At-Sea” subcommittee as part of the 2011 Governor’s Task Force on Tsunami Debris. The agency was contacted early on and activated the At-Sea plan to prevent the boat from coming ashore. Details are still being worked out on the best methods of containing any invasive species and removing the boat without causing any contamination to our waters. More news to come as this story develops…
The Japanese boat was removed from the water, pumped out, and dismantled on Monday, April 13, 2015. The fish are in quarantine for a month and will later be added to the main tank at the Newport Aquarium.