AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FISH
OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
One of the oddest looking marine fish in BC is the Pacific viperfish (Chauliodus macouni). Photo by Aaron Baldwin
The fish of British Coumbia are an extremely diverse and interesting wildlife group. With 85 species of freshwater fish and and 409 species of marine fish, British Columbia boasts a fish fauna much richer than most provinces in Canada.
While many species live in either freshwater or saltwater, some fish species are found in both freshwater and saltwater. Among the most biologically interesting fish species found here are the trout and salmon. While commercially important in BC, these fish also have interesting life cycles and biology. Some species, such as the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and the cutthroat salmon (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii), have both resident freshwater populations as well as populations that live in the sea, but that return to freswhater streams to breed (anadromous populations).
A common question that we get on E-Fauna BC is: are there any sharks in BC? Our marine waters are home to several species of sharks. Shark species that have been observed off the coast of BC include seven-gill sharks, lamniform sharks, ground sharks, and dogfin and sleeper sharks. Lamniform sharks include great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) and basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), two of the largest species of fish.
While most of our fish species are those that live in temperate climates, there are several subtropical species that appear in BC waters during El Nino years, when warmer waters move northward in the Pacific Ocean. These include the roughback sculpin (Chitonotus pugetensis) and the ocean whitefish (Caulolatilus princeps).
Misty Lake (Three-spine) Stickleback (Gasterosteus sp.), male tending his nest.
Read more about the Misty Lake Stickleback here.
Photo by A. Hendry, courtesy of UBC Fish Museum.
Over the years, several non-native fish species have been introduced into BC waters, including the Atlanatic Salmon, which now spawns in BC, and freshwater species such as American shad (Alosa sapidissima), goldfish (Carassius auratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), and oriental weatherfish (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus).
Explore the E-Fauna BC fish atlas pages to learn more about both marine and freshwater fish in BC, about which species are introduced, and about each species biology and distribution.. You can access the atlas pages by typing in "fish" in the common name box in either our Quick Search feature on the home page, or in the Species Search page.
Further reading on E-Fauna BC:
Read more about our marine fish species here.
View an annotated checklist of our native freshwater fish. (by Don McPhail)
Read more about introduced species of freshwater fish in BC. (by Don McPhail)
Read about our marine species of fish. (by Alex Pedan)
To scroll through the E-Fauna fish atlas pages, type 'fish' in the common name box in our Quick Search on the home page. This will call up the fish atlas pages.
Native Fishes Research Group (UBC)
UBC Fish Museum
Fish on line (A draft guide to learning and teaching ichthyology using the FishBase information system)
FishBase (Global Fish Database)
LarvalBase: A Global Information System about Fish larvae