The report is a precursor to a book coming out in a year or two that will feature Tomelleri’s drawings of all 253 Salish Sea fish species.
This report and the eventual book will be useful for scientists, anglers, educators and others in identifying Salish fishes, tracking the distribution and abundance of known species, assessing the health of their habitat and determining when these populations might be in danger of disappearing.
“If you don’t first know what you have, it’s impossible to know what you might be losing,” Pietsch said.
Pietsch and Orr scoured multiple sources to determine whether each species listed in the report lives or was known to live in the Salish Sea region, also known as the inland marine waters of Washington and British Columbia. Their primary source was the vast fish collection of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture—which now contains more than 11 million specimens — and they looked also at other major fish collections along the West Coast, including those at the University of British Columbia, the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, B.C., and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
Each species described in the report had to have a corresponding specimen or a good-quality photograph to ensure its existence, past or present. The Burke Museum contains archived specimens of nearly all of the 253 species.
Some of the newly added species include the prickly sculpin, Bering eelpout, spotted cusk-eel and the halfbanded rockfish. Including them in the full report means these species were seen and documented in the region sometime in the past, but weren’t represented on the last survey list, which was published in 1980.
In total, 37 new species were added, and five species were removed from the list because researchers couldn’t find evidence of their presence in the Salish Sea.
The online publication and upcoming book capture knowledge gained from Pietsch’s 37 years of teaching and archiving specimens at the UW. The professor and curator of fishes at the Burke Museum retired this past summer.
Funding for the work came from the SeaDoc Society, a marine science conservation program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.