Fish of Japan

As part of my sabbatical, I will survey the fishes of the Kii Peninsula, a southern extension of the main island of Honshu that is swept by the Kuroshio Current. This current brings larvae of tropical fish and coral (etc.) to this otherwise temperate island. I will make a series of dives at the southern tip of this peninsula later this month, at the town of Kushimoto.

It took me nearly 10 years to be able to dive in Japan, and it continues to be difficult. In many places, you have to pay the fishermen to be ‘allowed into their ocean’! Fortunately I have some strong connections now, that ease the issue. But I still have to pay. It can even be difficult to even approach a tide pool! Last Friday, I went on a museum/city beach walk program – mostly young kids and mothers. We were told that we could not go to the beach on our own – only with the guide and with special permission. We were also told to ‘leave the organisms where you find them. They are not yours. They are the fishermen’s!’

In the mean time, I have seen some new species in Ise (e.g. pinecone fish, Photo 1) at the northern edge of the Kii Peninsula (see also Photo 2). I also made my first dive in the Sea of Japan (July 24), where I found many families of fish typical of the U.S. west coast: Hexagrammidae – greenlings, Cottidae – sculpins, and Embiotocidae – surf perch. I also found a juvenile Asian sheepshead wrasse (Semicossyphus reticulatus, Photo 3) that looks identical to a juvenile California sheepshead wrasse typical of Catalina Island, CA (Semicossyphus pulcher).

The impact of studying fish in Kushimoto serves as a ‘lights on’ study. I have studied (and published) on fish from two major areas: 1) the US west coast (Seattle WA, southern CA) and also surveyed fish in the Sea of Cortez/Rocky Point (mostly similar fish), and 2) Polynesia (Hawaii & Tahit). Kushimoto is about the same latitude as CA, but receives tropical larvae. So, there are fish typical of the N. Pacific (e.g. CA) and Hawaii/Tahiti – an unusual assortment!

Photo 1: Pinecone fish, Monocentris japonica, Ise-Shima area dive with Dive Station 35.

Photo 2: Boxfish, Ostracion immaculatus, Ise-Shima area dive with Dive Station 35.

Photo 3: Asian sheepshead wrasse, Semicossyphus reticulatus, from Echizen, Sea of Japan dive with Divers Hamatomi.

My “good” camera (Rebel Xsi in an Ikelite housing) flooded in Ise, but I was able to get some decent pictures with my backup camera, a point and shoot (Canon Power Shot SD960 in a Canon housing). You can see many more photos of fish (and my kids) from the Sea of Japan on my Flickr site:

My new Rebel T2 arrived last week and its housing should come soon. More pictures to come from my dive trip to Kushimoto on August 22, 2011. !


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