First Specimens of the Marine Eels Venefica ocella and V. tentaculata (Nettastomatidae) from British Columbia


  • Gavin F. Hanke Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
  • Steven M. Roias Archipelago Marine Research, 525 Head Street, Esquimalt, British Columbia V9A 5S1



Nettastomatidae, Venefica ocella, Venefica tentaculata, British Columbia


Until recently, only the following seven species of marine eels were known to exist in waters off British Columbia (based on literature sources and museum records): Nemichthys scolopaceus, and Avocettina infans (Nemichthyidae, snipe eels), Xenomystax atrarius (Congridae, conger eels), Serrivomer jesperseni (Serrivomeridae, sawtooth eels), Cyema atrum (Cyematidae, bobtail eels), Synaphobranchus affinis (Synaphobranchidae, cutthroat eels), and Thalassenchelys coheni (Colocongridae, worm eels). Histiobranchus bathybius (also in the Synaphobranchidae) is expected to occur in British Columbia, since its range extends from Mexico to Alaska. Recent surveys to determine the viability of crab fisheries facilitated the collection of non-game fishes from by-catch in bottom-trawl samples. Several eels were collected between 2004 and 2006, and they were originally identified as Serrivomer jesperseni (Serrivomeridae). Re-examination of these specimens indicates that they all are duckbill eels (Nettastomatidae), the first records of this family north of 45°39'N along the North American Pacific coast. Both Venefica ocella and V. tentaculata are represented, with V. ocella found farther north than V. tentaculata. All British Columbia specimens are housed at the Royal British Columbia Museum. The collection of new deep-water species in British Columbia reinforces the value of survey sampling to improve our knowledge of biodiversity.