When most people think about by-catch, they think of shrimp fisheries and the thousands of tons of sea life which gets caught along with shrimp. The desired species are kept, and most everything else is dumped back into the sea or onshore.
By-catch can be a great source of new specimens for museum collections. When I go out with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on deep sea trips I am able to sample the catch and preserve what I want. Some specimens are new to BC, some are just cool – like Brown Catsharks. We keep some specimens because they have an interesting story – like the Dreamer that had swallowed a huge wad of packing tape.
By-catch from my samples and individually donated specimens also benefits other museum researchers. Melissa Frey and I carefully dissected a large copepod (a species of Pennella) that had attached to the back of the eye of a Louvar. I get the fish, the invertebrates collection gets the massive ectoparasitic copepod (I win – both in non-creepiness and biomass). Sometimes we save other parasites (flukes to leeches) from aquatic vertebrates for the “aquatic” invertebrate collection, as well as mites and ticks from reptiles, to fleas from mammals, and some funky flies (Family Streblidae) which are ectoparasites of bats. These go into the entomology collection.
This week, the entomologists returned fire with another specimen – this time from their sampling program at Hotsprings Cove, Maquinna Provincial Park. Their insect traps catch the occasional shrew, toad and salamander, and today I received this tiny Western Red-backed Salamander for the amphibian and reptile collection.