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Amazing Fish Tag Journey: 12,400 km

PittagsIn 2005, a 2.9-inch steelhead left a Washington state hatchery with a tiny implanted electronic tag. In April, Maori hunter Dale Whaitiri on Big Moggy Island off Southern New Zealand killed a young sooty shearwater chick, and found the tag.

It had traveled 7,700 miles (12,400 km), fascinating scientists an ocean apart who are trying to figure out how it got there.

The answer may reveal ecological connections stretching across the Pacific and illuminate the value Northwest salmon carry even thousands of miles away.

Scientists believe the fish was eaten by an adult sooty shearwater, and have two theories about the tag:

  • That a shearwater off Oregon ate the young steelhead as it headed to sea, and the electronic tag from the fish lodged in the bird's stomach. There it remained for more than a year, until the bird, in New Zealand, regurgitated its stomach contents to feed its chick.

  • That the steelhead was inadvertently caught in a fishing net, perhaps near Japan or Russia, cut up on a factory ship or another fishing boat, and its remains and the tag were tossed overboard, to be eaten one of the masses of shearwaters that follow fishing vessels.

Source: LiveScience
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