VICTORIA -- A rare deep-sea fish was discovered on Vancouver Island this month.

A pair of friends, Natalie Mueller and Andie Lafrentz, were walking along Whiffin Spit in Sooke on Sept. 19 when they spotted what they first thought was a “large piece of scrap metal.”

Upon closer inspection, the pair discovered the item was a large, thin fish.

“The first thing that stuck out to me was how large its eye was,” Mueller told CTV News.

“My friend Andie and I met in university in biology class and both deduced that it must have been a deep-water fish based on the size of its eye and pupil,” she said.

Indeed, King-of-the-salmon are a type of ribbonfish that generally live in ocean depths of approximately 900 metres.

Mueller says the pair took pictures and videos of the fish before continuing on their walk. The friends thought the fish was interesting but didn’t realize it was rare to find until they looked up what it was after their walk.

“By the time we got back to (Andie’s) house we started trying to figure out what it was – and when we finally figured out what it was we were shocked,” said Mueller.

“We debated going back to see if it was still there but assumed the tide had already come in and swept it out,” she said.

According to website Marine Detective – run by marine biologist Jackie Hildering, co-founder of the Marine Education and Research Society – King-of-the-salmon fish have appeared on Vancouver Island just twice before.

One was sighted in Telegraph Bay in 2019, and another was discovered in Oak Bay in 2017, according to the researcher.

The King-of-the-salmon species reportedly gets its namesake from a legend of the Makah First Nation, an Indigenous community found in Washington, says Hildering.

The legend poses that King-of-the-salmon would lead salmon back to local rivers to spawn each year.

Adult King-of-the-salmon tend to reach an average length of two metres and live in the Pacific Ocean, ranging from the Gulf of Alaska to Chile.