Bishop Museum initiated its Ichthyology collection with a small sampling from off the west coast of North America by the U.S. Fish Commission vessel Albatross in 1889, and while these specimens are no longer extant, the current collection of over 40,000 cataloged lots (more than 102,000 specimens) includes other specimens from its early history, such as Alvin Seale's South Pacific expeditions of 1900-1903.
The fish collection holds specimens of other early Pacific voyages of exploration, such as the Tanager and Whippoorwill Expeditions (1923-1924), but is dominated by the extensive collections of its most prominent ichthyologist, John E. ("Jack") Randall, who joined the Bishop Museum in 1965. Jack Randall has single-handedly established the Bishop Museum fish collection as arguably the best systematic research resource in the world for Indo-Pacific reef and shore fishes by his selective collecting for over 40 years and his prolific writings on fish systematics.
Collection holdings are from all of the major island groups and tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific. However, deep benthic and epipelagic fishes of the central Pacific and the freshwater native fishes of the Hawaiian Islands are also represented. An effort led by Ronald A. Englund is underway to supplement the collection with the most significant examples of non-indigenous naturalized freshwater fishes of Hawai‘i. Phylogenetic groups in the collection range from elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, rays) to plectognaths (triggerfishes, filefishes, boxfishes, puffers); families especially well-represented include the surgeonfishes, blennies, gobies, wrasses, moray eels, damselfishes, and groupers -- these families are among the most diverse known.