A strange sea creature that washed up on Oak Bay’s Rattenbury Beach late Thursday morning has been identified as a very rare king-of-the-salmon, according to a local biologist.
The unique name of the king-of-the-salmon originates from Makah First Nation legend, in which the fish (Trachiptreus altivelis) was believed to be the “king” that would lead salmon back to their rivers to spawn, noted Jackie Hildering, a biologist and marine educator, who goes by the handle of The Marine Detective on her blog.
The strange-looking fish, at more than two metres long, was found deceased beside the water by a man who was walking on the beach with his dog.
“I was just walking along with my dog and saw this bright shining fish here, and I never saw anything like it, so I was interested,” Ben Baker, who found the creature, told Oak Bay News. “I have no idea what it could be, maybe an oarfish, but who knows.”
Another video, posted on Facebook an hour prior by Peter Rowand, showed the fish was already in trouble as it floated aimlessly closer and closer to shore.
Unsurprisingly, king-of-the-salmon belong to the ribbonfish family, (Trachipteridae) are extremely thin and reach lengths longer than two metres. The long and high crimson-coloured dorsal fin is also very reminiscent of a ribbon, tapering down the full length of the fish’s back. These fish move in a snake-like fashion, undulating their long bodies.
As adult king-of-the-salmon feed in the open ocean at depths of 900 metres or more (3,000 ft) they very rarely make an appearance ashore, Hildering said.
In Makah culture, killing one would bring bad luck, causing the death of the salmon.
For more info on this fascinating fish, check out themarinedetective.com.