Rare poisonous fish washes up on west Vancouver Island

Rare poisonous fish washes up on west Vancouver Island
Liz McArthur/CBC
The tissues of the spotted porcupine fish contain tetrodotoxin making it poisonous.

This year has seen some unusual species arriving on Vancouver Island, from Asian giant hornets and a piranha in Nanaimo. And now, a very rare poisonous fish has been spotted in B.C. waters.

A curator at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria says the arrival of a spotted porcupine fish, which is like a pufferfish but with spikes on it, is a real surprise. It was discovered on the west coast of Vancouver Island this year near Jordan River.

Curator of vertebrate zoology Gavin Hanke says the fish was found on a beach in some eelgrass. The fish is very dangerous since its tissues contain tetrodotoxin, which Hanke says can cause paralysis and eventually asphyxiation.

Now researchers are trying to figure out how this fish, which would normally be found as far north as San Diego, wound up here. The theories include being a possible pet trade animal thrown overboard off a fishing boat, or it could have just swum here, aided by a warmer Pacific Ocean.

“It’s not like a tuna or a shark, so a little round fish slowly sculling along in the ocean I just wouldn’t have expected it to get this far north,” Hanke said.

“The history of fish is of British Columbia goes back as long as this province has existed. To find the very first one, it’s a bit of a feather in the cap. It’s kind of fun to do it and it certainly gets attention, that’s for sure.”

Hanke says if anyone on the Island sees an animal or plant that is not recognizable, he encourages them to take a picture and send it in because you never know if it’s another great discovery.

With files from CBC. 


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