Photo/Illutration The Japanese threadfin bream (Provided by the Kagoshima University Museum)

KAGOSHIMA—A fish that was nearly a meal for an elderly islander turned out to be the first of its species ever found in Japanese waters, researchers said.

Despite its name, which was coined 230 years ago, the Japanese threadfin bream had never been spotted, let alone caught, in Japan.

However, that streak ended when Tadakazu Miza, 70, landed the fish at Nishinoomote Port on Tanegashima island in Kagoshima Prefecture in January 2020.

Miza, who lives on Tanegashima, thought his catch, which measured 25 centimeters long, was just an ordinary threadfin bream. But since he rarely caught the species, he decided to show it to Hiroyuki Motomura, a Kagoshima University Museum professor of fish taxonomy, “just in case.”

Motomura studied the fish with Jumpei Nakamura from the Kagoshima City Aquarium and identified it as a Japanese threadfin bream based on its patterns, fins and other features.

The species is abundant in waters off Taiwan and in Southeast Asia.

Miza’s catch was apparently born off Taiwan and was immediately carried by the Kuroshio Current to waters off Tanegashima island, where it settled and grew, Motomura said.

The species was named “Nemipterus japonicus,” which means Japanese threadfin bream, in 1791 by a German ichthyologist.

The initial specimen was likely collected near Java island in today’s Indonesia, but it was mistakenly attributed to waters off Japan, Motomura said.

A Japanese ichthyologist in 1938 gave it a Japanese name, which also means Japanese threadfin bream, although no fish of the species had ever been found in the country.

The two scientists on April 30 published their research results online in the Japanese Journal of Ichthyology, which is issued by the Ichthyological Society of Japan.

The article calls the discovery the northernmost record of the species in the West Pacific.

Motomura said, “I feel deeply moved to have been able to directly hold the first specimen of the species in Japan, although that came as a result of chance factors, including the Kuroshio Current.”

Miza said he was surprised to learn it was the first fish of its kind found in Japan.

“I am happy I didn’t send it down my throat,” he said.