By Peter McLaren-Kennedy •
Published: 25 Dec 2021 • 14:45
A sighting off the Tasmanian coast is the first time rare walking fish is spotted in 22 years. The very rare and endangered pink Handfish was last seen in 1999 by a diver in the same area.
Recognised as under threat of possible extinction, the fish which is only found in these waters, had only been seen four times prior to the latest sighting.
As per their name, the species has over-sized “hands” on which they “walk” along the seabed to forage and swimming when needed.
Australian researchers say they found the fish on a deep sea camera recording taken earlier this year in a marine park. Previously it was thought that the fish was a shallow water species that lived in sheltered bays, however with it being found more than 150m down it is clear that it is in fact a deep water species.
Lead researcher and marine biologist Neville Barrett, an Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania said: “This is an exciting discovery and offers hope for the ongoing survival of pink Handfish, as clearly they have a wider habitat and distribution than previously thought,” said
Barrett’s team dropped a baited camera on the seabed of the Tasman Fracture Marine Park in February to survey the coral, lobster and fish species down there. The park, which is the size of Switzerland, is known for its long crack in the earth’s crust and the unusual marine life to be found in depths of over 4,000 metres.
The footage was however only found recently by an assistant, Ashlee Bastiaansen from the university’s Institute of Antarctic and Marine Studies, who was trawling through the footage.
She said: “I was watching one of our rough videos and there was a little fish that popped up on this reef ledge that looked a bit odd.” Speaking to ABC News she said: “I had a closer look and you could see its little hands.”
Barrett said that the creature was: “disturbed by a lobster” and “In that time it’s given us a really great head-on piece of imagery … to absolutely categorically identify the species and measure its size. We’re quite excited to be able to use the range of techniques now and really see how important these deeper habitats are for such a rare species.”
There are 14 different handfish types around Tasmania, but the first time rare walking fish spotted in 22 years will excite marine biologists around the world.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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