It is 2020, and people are asking whether this year will get any stranger.
How about barracuda in BC waters? Does that qualify?
I received several emails and other messages today (July 10) noting that a 5.4 kg barracuda had been caught off Vancouver Island this week. This is a really cool record, and I hope it’s added to iNaturalist.
Pacific barracuda (Sphyraena argentea) are known to range all along our coast, and as Alaska-based biologist Scott Meyer notes, they range north to Alaska during El Niño years. The first record from Alaska (off Kodiak Island) dates back to 1937, when a school of barracuda was sighted, though only one was caught. The surface waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean must have been warm that year, because a barracuda also was caught off Sooke, British Columbia. Another barracuda was found in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1958. In BC they are known also from Queen Charlotte Sound and the Prince Rupert area (see Hart 1973). Pietsch and Orr (2019) detail several barracuda records from the Salish Sea in their magnum opus, Fishes of the Salish Sea.
The first record along the BC coast was a specimen cataloged at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM 33), caught at Otter Point in Sooke, July 27, 1904. It is the only Pacific barracuda in the RBCM collection. According to Peitsch and Orr (2019) the earliest record of Pacific barracuda in the area comes from Gig Harbor, Puget Sound dating back to 1878.
I wouldn’t mind another specimen for the museum collection to accompany the 1904 specimen and our other warm-water strays: the louvar and finescale triggerfish found here in 2014, the North Pacific argentine from 2010 and the spotted porcupinefish from 2019.
I wonder what fish is next? Maybe we will get more hammerhead sharks? They were seen off Ucluelet in 1952 and 1953. Sure would be neat to have them here again.
Carl, Clifford C. “The Hammerhead Shark in British Columbia.” Victoria Naturalist 11, no. 4 (1954): 37.
Cowan, Ian McTaggart. “Some Fish Records From the Coast of British Columbia.” Copeia 1938, no. 2: 97.
Hart, John Lawson. Pacific Fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada Bulletin 180. 740 p.
Quast, Jay C. 1964. “Occurrence of the Pacific Bonito in Coastal Alaska Waters.” Copeia 1964, no. 2: 448.
Pietsch, Theodore, and James. W. Orr. Fishes of the Salish Sea, Puget Sound and the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca. Victoria: Heritage House, 2019. 1032 pages.
Van Cleve, Richard, and W.F. Thompson. “A Record of the Pomfret and Barracuda from Alaska.” Copeia 1938, no. 1: 45-46.