There’s a copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) in the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s Strait of Georgia exhibit that doesn’t quite look like the others. Take a close look and you might notice something a bit different about one of its eyes.

Like other long-lived animals, rockfishes often have some health issues as they age. This particular rockfish developed cataracts and needed its eye removed.

The Aquarium’s head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, replaced the real damaged eye with a taxidermy eye, partly for cosmetic reasons and partly for the fish’s wellbeing. Without an eye, the other fishes would act aggressively towards it for appearing sick and weak.

The copper rockfish post surgery.

The copper rockfish post surgery.

Another rockfish – a yellowtail (Sebastes flavidus) – also underwent the same procedure and will return to the exhibit at Vancouver International Airport.

This is the first time this type of surgery has been conducted at the Vancouver Aquarium. With help from Seattle Aquarium’s head vet, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, Haulena affixed the taxidermy eye to the bone above the eye socket by sewing it on with nylon sutures and attaching it with titanium clips. The fish was put under anesthesia for the procedure.

The Aquarium is well known for the care it gives marine mammals, but Haulena says, “Some people don’t realize how much effort we give fish.”

Watch the video below to see how it all went down.

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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