Washington paddle boarder discovers rare deep sea fish with coffee cup sized eyes

A rare "King-of-the-salmon" discovered in the Salt Creek Recreation Area near Port Angeles on...
A rare "King-of-the-salmon" discovered in the Salt Creek Recreation Area near Port Angeles on June 7, 2020.((Photo courtesy: Harbor WildWatch))
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 5:25 PM EDT
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PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- A paddleboarder in Washington discovered a rare deep-sea fish with huge eyes Sunday.

KVAL reported that the paddle boarder’s discovery of the rare fish near Port Angeles has researchers buzzing. The fish found at the Salt Creek Recreation Center was identified as a type of ribbonfish called the ‘King-of-Salmon’.

Officials with Harbor Wildwatch happened to be at the beach area when the paddleboarder called out that there was a “massive, dead creature” with an “alarmingly large eye” submerged in the creek.

"The creature turned out to be an elusive deep-sea fish, rarely seen in the wild and even rarer to find washed ashore," says Carly Vester, spokesperson for Harbor Wildwatch.

Only four of this type of ribbonfish has been spotted between Washington and British Columbia up until this point because the fish usually lives around 3,000 feet deep in the Pacific Coast.

The Harbor Wildwatch Education Director estimates the fish washed up on shore within the last few days.

“Since there isn’t any noticeable injury, we think it’s likely that this specimen somehow was caught in the surf and washed ashore,” said Rachel Easton.

The name “King-of-Salmon” originated from the Makah Tribe, according to Vester. He said the tribe’s legends say the fish annually led the salmon back to their spawning grounds.

“The catch or consumption of King-of-the-Salmon was forbidden, as it was feared the death would stop the salmon run,” Vester said.

The fish can grow up to six feet tall.

“I had never seen anything like this,” said Stena Troyer, a science specialist with Harbor Wildwatch. “And we have discovered some incredible things on the beach over the years!”

The State Department of Wildlife has been notified of the discovery.

“The discovery is an incredible learning opportunity to see the species close-up and educate the public about this rare fish and the native legend associated with it,” Vester said.

Copyright 2020 WVLT via KVAL. All rights reserved.