British Columbia

'It's a first': Rare poisonous fish washes up on Vancouver Island

A rare poisonous fish, usually found in tropical waters, was found earlier this month washed up on shore near a Vancouver Island community. 

Spotted porcupine fish makes first known appearance in B.C.

The tissues of the spotted porcupine fish contain tetrodotoxin making it poisonous. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

A rare poisonous fish, usually found in tropical waters, was found earlier this month washed up on shore near a Vancouver Island community. 

The tissues of the spotted porcupine fish contain tetrodotoxin, which can cause paralysis and eventually asphyxiation, according to Gavin Hanke, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal B.C. Museum. 

It's the first time the species has been found in B.C., he said. It's been preserved as part of the museum's collection. 

"I knew it was a new arrival and a real shock for British Columbia," Hanke said.

The fish was found on a beach near Jordan River, a community about 70 kilometres west of Victoria, with evidence of birds having picked over it. 

"[That] kind of troubles me, considering it's a toxic animal," he said. 

Gavin Hanke of the Royal B.C. Museum says this is the first time the species has been found in the province. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

A sample will be sent for DNA analysis to identify which population it came from, but it might be difficult to determine exactly how it ended up on a Vancouver Island beach. 

Hanke speculates it could be a pet trade animal, a pet on a fishing boat thrown overboard or — his strongest guess — that it swam up from California.

Any time you see a strange animal or plant, it's best to contact the museum and ask someone what it is, Hanke said.

"I get phone calls every week with people dropping off a bird or a mouse or a shrew or something I've got," he added. 

The fish is the latest anomaly found in B.C. in recent months, following a nest of invasive Asian giant hornets in Nanaimo, a piranha in Westwood Lake (also in Nanaimo) and a tropical olive ridley sea turtle found near Port Alberni. 

With files from All Points West

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