February 26, 2024
Researchers on Orcas Island stumbled on a bizarre discovery Wednesday morning, after finding a five-and-a-half-foot-long bluefin tuna washed ashore on Crescent Beach.

ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. — Researchers on Orcas Island stumbled on a bizarre discovery Wednesday morning, after finding a five-and-a-half-foot-long bluefin tuna washed ashore on Crescent Beach.
So, what’s special about this 200-plus pound fish? For one, this marks the first time a bluefin tuna has ever been scientifically documented in the Salish Sea.
“I’ve never seen one out here in the Pacific Northwest,” University of Florida researcher Karly Cohen told KIRO 7. “It was astonishing.”

Cohen says that bluefins are typically found off the coast of California, and prefer to swim in more temperate waters than the much colder Salish Sea.
As for how it ended up hundreds of miles away from its usual home, that has scientists baffled.

We woke up to discover this beautiful Pacific #bluefin tuna dead on Crescent Beach in Eastsound—right here on Orcas Island. Bluefin tuna had never previously been scientifically documented in the #SalishSea! pic.twitter.com/RI5GQD4fkL
— The SeaDoc Society (@SeaDocSociety) July 11, 2023

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“It wasn’t just on shore on the outer coast — it was in this weird inner channel that we have,” Cohen described. “It’s really quite a puzzling picture of how it not only got to Washington, but how did it get to this tiny little inlet of islands in Washington?”
Other researchers were similarly shocked by the sudden appearance of the giant tuna.
“What is this doing here?” asked SeaDoc Society Science Director Joe Gaydos. “This is crazy to see this thing, and then I was like, ‘I need to double check the ID on this.’”
The cherry on top: A new field guide to fish in the Salish Sea released on Tuesday, which Gaydos had just reviewed. Unsurprisingly, the bluefin tuna is nowhere to be found in that book.
“That’s just not in there, right?” Gaydos joked. “You just never know what you’re gonna wake up to — the ocean keeps you wondering.”
In the meantime, this tuna is going to get a lot of attention from scientists across the region, who’ll want to study its skeleton, test the fish for harmful algal toxins, and figure out what it was eating while it was here. That could give researchers more of an idea as to what it was doing in our waters.

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