The boat's journey likely began four years ago, across the Pacific, in the wake of devastation. A big piece of the vessel is believed to have broken off in a tsunami and traveled thousands of miles from Japan before it arrived off the central coast of Oregon.

Some passengers were still aboard when the ship's remains were found this week: About 20 yellowtail jack fish, representing a species usually found in the waters off Japan.

Police from Oregon inspecting fishing licenses a couple of miles off-shore on Thursday came across the 25- to 30-foot piece of what appears to have once been a 50-foot commercial fishing vessel, said Chris Havel, spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The boat — or at least what's left of it — has been hauled into a port and will be checked for any sort of markers or numbers that could help officials conclusively deduce the boat's origins, Havel said.

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