Rockfish gets prosthetic eye to stop bullying from other fish at Canada aquarium

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Surgery is not generally considered a solution to bullying. But that's exactly what's taken place.

The patient is a copper rockfish at the Vancouver Aquarium undergoing a cutting-edge procedure to keep other fish from picking on it.

Visitors to the aquarium usually learn about the diversity of creatures living off the British Columbia coast. But these days one particular fish is getting a great deal of attention.

"Recently veterinarians at the Vancouver Aquarium fitted this animal with a prosthetic, or fake, eye," the tour guide tells an assembled group.

Performing surgery on a rockfish takes some unique preparation. The fish had to be anesthetized and placed on a special fish-sized surgical bed. A vet from the Seattle Aquarium who's done this procedure before was also brought in to share her expertise.

One key was getting just the right eye from a taxidermist supply company. Cost: $1.50 (Canada).

Some might call the whole exercise frivolous, but not those taking care of the creatures at the aquarium.

"We try and do the best we can for every single creature that's here, no matter what, we treat everything from sea stars to belugas, and a rockfish that might be having an uncomfortable life that we can do something about, I think that's a perfect candidate to do something for," said Dr. Martin Haulena, Vancouver Aquarium

He says the fish, one of two that had the procedure, was suffering because others were picking on it, sensing weakness.

"We were trying to prevent some bullying and get the fish to have as happy a life as possible, primarily because we have this sort of aging population of fish," said Haulena.

The copper rockfish is somewhere between 20 and 30 years old - not unusual for a species that can live for several decades.

Word of the half-blind fish has spread, opening young eyes to some of life's difficult problems.

"I wonder what would happen in the ocean if he just had one eye, how long he'd survive, if he would survive, and I think it's neat to know a fish can survive with one eye," said Katja Ode, aquarium visitor.