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Fish of the year 2022

seaweek
Thank you for voting in our Fish of the Year 2022 competition.
Voting has now closed. 

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We are super excited to announce the winners of EMR's 2022 Te Ika o Te Tau competition! We had a whopping 781 submissions come in for fish of the year!

Our 2022 winner is once again the whai repo (eagle ray, Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) who took the lead with a huge 193 votes! In second place, a new addition for 2022, the endearing, endangered manaia (big bellied seahorse - Hippocampus abdominalis) who took out the runner-up spot with 145 votes! Coming in close third was our favourite freshwater friend - tuna (Long/short finned eel, Anguilla spp.) with 144 votes!

We are thrilled to see so much love for our endangered manaia and freshwater eels! Our runner-up, manaia, is New Zealand's only seahorse species, and are under threat from pollution and habitat degradation. But hope is not lost! With mussel and kelp restoration and the establishment of 'seahorse hotels' we can help protect our seahorse species by providing them with healthy habitats! You can find out more about our amazing manaia here! https://www.nzgeo.com/.../the-endearing-endangered-seahorse/

Thank you so much to everyone for your votes and we hope you learnt some fun facts along the way. We received some very cool ika suggestions for Te Ika o Te Tau 2023 so keep your eyes peeled for some cool critters coming in next year's competition! Who will steal whai repos spot for 2023? Prize winners will be announced on Thursday 7th April via facebook and email.

Many thanks to our supporters of Fish of the Year, Seaweek, Wilderlab NZ Ltd, Northland Regional Council, Wettie Spearfishing & Wetsuits and Charlie Thomas (Charlie's Art)!

Mata - black angelfish

Nest defender

black angel fish

Facts

Mata - Black angelfish - Parma alboscapularis NATIVE

Black angelfish are encountered in shallow rock-reefs in north-east NZ and offshore islands and feed on algae, salp and fish-eggs. Males (black with white spot) are fierce defenders of nesting sites, clearing seaweed and small animals from boulders with females picking the most beautiful boulder to lay their sticky eggs. Juvenile black angelfish are easily distinguished from other fish by their yellow-brown with iridescent blue lines!

IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Kōkiri - leatherjacket

Retractable spine for extra defence

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Facts

Leather jacket - Kōkiri - Meuschenia scaber NATIVE


Leather jacket are found all around New Zealand and in Eastern Australia. They inhabit rocky reefs, feeding mainly on encrusting sponges and molluscs found on the rocks and zooplankton in the water column. heir extremely tough, leathery skin helps protect them from predators and their strong and incredibly sharp teeth allow them to scrape their prey off the rocks.  Leather jacket belong to a group of fish called triggerfish, that have a retractable spine (trigger) on top of their head as an extra defence against predators.

ICUN red list status: Least concern

 

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Whai repo - eagle ray

A favourite snack of Orca

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Facts

Eagle ray - Whai repo- Myliobatis tenuicaudatus NATIVE

Eagle rays are found all around New Zealand with their habitat ranging from sandy flats, seagrass beds, estuaries and bays to rocky reefs. They usually prefer to hang out in shallow water, however they have been found as deep as 422 metres! Eagle rays use their electrosensory system to find and feed on benthic animals like crabs, clams and worms buried in the seabed. They use their unique tooth plates to crush hard shelled prey, jetting water to clear the sand and expose their meal.

For defence against threats, eagle rays have a venomous spine on their tails so give these rays plenty of space when swimming in the sea!

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Tāmure - Snapper

Love to snack on kina

black angel fish

Facts

Tāmure - Snapper - Pagrus auratus NATIVE

Snapper are found all over the Indo-Pacific and inhabit rocky reefs and estuaries up to 200 metres .They can be found around most of the coastline of New Zealand, however the largest populations are found in the North Island. Snapper feed on up to 100 different species. However their main diet consists of crayfish, kina, crabs and small fish - with kina feeding preventing the overgrazing of kelp forests.


Juvenile and young snapper are silvery pinkish to golden fish with numerous bright blue spots over upper sides.Older and larger snapper will develop a hump on their head and lose their blue iridescent spots.

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Nanua - Red Moki

Can live to 60!

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Facts

Nanua - Red Moki - Cheilodactylus spectabilis NATIVE

Red moki are found in the North Island of New Zealand and Southern Australia, usually from depths of 50 metres and upwards in rocky reef habitat. Red moki are micro carnivores, feeding on invertebrates associated with benthic turf and foliose algae, using a suction feeding. They spend a lot of time in caves and crevices, only venturing into the open to feed. Their distinctive vertical bars help to camouflage them amongst vertical kelp strands. They are also territorial and remain in that territory for their lifetime, often many hundred square metres.

IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

 

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Tāngahangaha - Sandager’s wrasse

Named after a lighthouse keeper

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Facts

Tāngahangaha - Sandager’s wrasse - Coris sandeyeri NATIVE

Sandager’s wrasse are found in Northern New Zealand, including the Kermadecs and in Australia, including Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. They inhabit rocky reefs down to depths of about 60 metres. They feed mainly on benthic invertebrates like chitons, amphipods and gastropods. Adults will usually be found feeding on the bottom of the seabed, whilst juveniles form a cleaning symbiosis with other larger fish, picking off and eating their parasites. The juveniles within the group will all develop into females, however when the groups male dies, the most dominant female will change sex into a male. Sandager’s wrasse are sexually dimorphic with the males being more brightly coloured than the females.

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Āhuruhuru - Goatfish

Males change colour to attract the girls

black angel fish

Facts

Āhuruhuru - Goat fish - Upeneichtys Lineatus NATIVE

 

Goat fish are found in the Southwest Pacific, including New Zealand and Eastern Australia. They inhabit sheltered rocky reefs between depths of 5 to 60 metres.Goatfish often forage in small schools, using their feeler-like barbels beneath their chin to sense out their prey buried in the sand. Male Goatfish will change colouration during breeding season to a blue hue to appear more attractive to females. The males also establish territories during this time, fending off other males and focusing on courting females with their new colour display.  Goatfish can also flash a brilliant red colour, thought to help parasites stand out to cleaner fish that can then assist with their removal.

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Īnanga

Larval carry a packed lunch

black angel fish

Facts

Īnanga - Galaxias maculatus NATIVE

The smallest of the galaxiid (whitebait) species, inanga, are native to New Zealand and are found all throughout the country in lakes, lowland rivers, streams and wetlands. Inanga begin life as eggs laid in vegetation beside streams in late summer and autumn. When the eggs hatch, they are carried downstream as larvae and spend the next six months at sea. In the spring they migrate upstream as whitebait and grow into adult fish. This diadromous lifestyle means they are threatened by both marine and freshwater issues including loss of spawning habitat, pest fish predation and migration barriers such as weirs and culverts.

 

Click the learn more button to see how you can help our inanga!


IUCN red list status: At Risk - Declining

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Matuawhāpuka - Scorpion Fish

Masters of disguise

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Facts

Matuawhāpuka - Scorpion fish - Scorpaena cardinalis NATIVE

Scorpion fish are found in rocky reefs of Northern New Zealand, including the Kermedecs and the offshore islands of the Tasman sea up to depthjs of 154 meters! They are sit and wait predators, feeding on small benthic animals, swallowing them whole with their large mouths. Once prey is close by, they blow a jet of water toward its victim, disorienting it. They use their cryptic colouration and knobbly texture to blend in with the reef around them. Like most species in the scorpionfish family, they also have venomous dorsal spines as a defence mechanism against predators!


IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Tuna - Longfin eels

Swim to Tonga

black angel fish

Facts

Tuna - Longfin eel - Anguilla dieffenbachii ENDEMIC

Longfin eel are endemic to New Zealand and can be found living in many streams, lakes, wetlands and rivers. They are magnificent navigators, carrying out open ocean migrations to their breeding grounds in Tonga where they spawn. They are one-time breeders, with their migration offshore marking the end of their life, some will breed when they are 23-25 and others wait until they are 80 years old! Larvae then make their way back to New Zealand by themselves on ocean currents, migrating upstreams, scaling waterfalls and wriggling over land to get safely inland. 

Longfin eels, as well as being rare, are less able to cope with changes to their environment than their shorter-finned relative. They are heavily affected by human activities, such as pollution, the building of dams, loss of vegetation near their habitat, and overfishing.


IUCN red list status: Endangered

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Paketi - spotty

Maritime gypsies

black angel fish

Facts

Paketi - spotty - Notolabrus celidotus ENDEMIC

Paketi are endemic to New Zealand, including Stewart Island, and are found around rocky reefs and estuarine habitats. They are one of Aotearoa’s most common reef fish, and is a mainstay of our snorkel days. They are very active hunters, feeding on small benthic organisms like crustaceans and worms. They use their forward jutting front teeth to scrape food off the seabed, with not much escaping their grasp. Paketi exist in harems with one male to many females. All paketi start their life as female and once the male of their group dies the largest female will transition to male, and take over the role. Females have a large, perfectly round spot on either side of their body, whilst males have a collection of smaller spots near their dorsal fin.

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Pātiki tōtara - Flounder

Ambush predators

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Facts

Pātiki tōtara - Flounder - Rhombosalea plebeia ENDEMIC

Sand flounder are native to New Zealand and found throughout the country in estuaries and shallow coastal water. They have a distinctive diamond shaped belly and both eyes on one side of their head! Larval flounder start their life with eyes on each side of it’s head, with one eye slowly moving to the right side, allowing it to swim flat and lie on the ground. Adult flounder are adapted to feed best at night on sand or mud. They are ambush predators, going unnoticed by camouflage and then attacking their prey when it comes near using both touch and vision. They eat a variety of bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as crabs, brittle stars, shrimps, worms, whitebait, shellfish and tiny fish.


IUCN red list status: Least concerned

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Hāpuka

SSlow growing,long-lived

black angel fish

Facts

Hāpuku - Polyprion oxygeneios NATIVE

Hāpuku are most often found in depths between 50 and 850 metres on deep, rocky offshore reefs. Hāpuku are predators, feeding on a large range of other fish species, invertebrates and crustaceans, including red cod and blue cod, hoki, crabs and crayfish. Hāpuku are a large, slow growing, long-lived species, they can grow as large as 100 kg, but are usually found around the 25 kg mark.

“Hapuku is a classic example of overfishing. Few people realise that in the early half of last century hapuku were a common reef fish on our shallow coastal reefs. Now they are considered a deep water fish as they are extinct in diving depths, particularly in northern New Zealand. We may never know what their ecological role was on shallow reefs. I believe their biomass is probably less than 5% of its pre-fished state, and their TAC (Total Allowable Catch) should be reduced to zero” The late Dr Roger Grace


IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Parore

Seaweed grazers

black angel fish

Facts

Parore - Girella tricuspidata NATIVE

Parore are found in the eastern North Island of New Zealand and are a common fish to spot while snorkelling in shallow reefs. They are a silver- grey colour with ~10 dark grey vertical bars along the flanks. They are a fast moving fish, usually seen in schools and common in shallow water.  Parore are mainly herbivores but opportunistically feed on crabs, shrimps, mussels and worms. As parore mature, they congregate in large shoals and the adults form 'runs' from estuarine waters and coastal lakes into the sea.


IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Karokaropounamu - Silver drummer

Herbivores

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Facts

Silver drummer - Karokaropounamu - Kyphosus sydneyanus NATIVE


In New Zealand, silver drummer are found from North Cape to East Cape. Silver drummer are usually seen in uniform schools of up to 30 fish, often grazing on seaweeds, feeding mostly at dusk and dawn. Young Silver drummer have light blue or white spots and look like a different species to adults. They find protection in shallow turbulent waters. They have become rare in many places but are often supported in large schools at the Goat Island Marine Reserve, where there is plenty of algae for them to eat and hide amongst.


IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Black spotted grouper

A protected species

black angel fish

Facts

Black spotted grouper - Epinephelus daemelii

This massive fish can grow to 2m in length and weigh over 80kg! They vary in colour  from dark greyish-black to black and white, with colours changing within only a few seconds. An interesting fact about these fish is that all start life as females and change into males at around 30 years of age and 1 m in size. Due to their slow reproductive and maturity rates, spotted black grouper are vulnerable to overfishing and are completely protected in New Zealand waters. Check out other protected fish in NZ in this handy fishers guide!


IUCN red list status: Near threatened

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Kohikohi - trumpeter

Thick fleshy lips

black angel fish

Facts

Kohikohi - Trumpeter - Latris lineata NATIVE

Trumpeter are found in cold temperate New Zealand waters from the Bay of Plenty and south, particularly around the eastern South Island. Trumpeter have a concave head with thick fleshy lips like they are playing a trumpet. They also have many rows of curved teeth allowing them to feed on crabs, shrimp, octopus, squid and small fish!  The outline of the trumpeter closely resembles that of the blue moki to which it is related. Indeed these two species share much the same habitat and eat much the same prey.


IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Rāwaru - Blue cod

Inquisitive

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Facts

Rāwaru - Blue cod - Parapercis colias ENDEMIC

Blue cod are bottom-dwelling predators with thickened pelvic fins and strong tips on the anal fin which provide support when resting on the ocean floor. They are endemic and found all over New Zealand, but are more abundant in southern waters to a depth of 150 metres. Blue cod have a thick lipped mouth with rotating eyes and are very inquisitive, often approaching snorkelers in marine protected areas.

Male blue cod will protect a harem of females, actively maintaining a territory free of other males. As they are hemaphrodites, when no males are nearby, the biggest and boldest female will change their sex to become male, enhancing the survival of the other females and fertilising the females eggs.


IUCN red list status: Least Concern- Decreasing

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Haku - Yellowfin Kingfish

Fast-swimming and ferocious hunters

black angel fish

Facts

Haku - Yellowfin Kingfish - Seriola lalandi lalandi NATIVE

Kingfish are wide ranging predators found from the Kermadec Islands to the Banks peninsula. They are a popular game fish which are easily recognisable from their bright yellow fin. Kingfish can reach up to 2.5m long and over 45kg, often taking over 20 years to reach full size. As ferocious fish eaters they mainly feed on trevally, piper, koheru and kahawai. Kingfish often occur in large schools in open reef structures, pinnacles and shallow bays and harbours where they hunt small fish. Their dark upper body and lighter lower body act as a countershading tool, camouflaging them from predators like sharks!

IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Ruanoho - Blue-eyed triplefin

Iridescent blue eyes

black angel fish

Facts

Blue-eyed triplefin - Ruanoho - Notoclinops segmentatus ENDEMIC

Triplefin fishes are the most abundant of New Zealand’s shallow-water subtidal reef fish. The blue-eyed triplefin is endemic to New Zealand and is easily recognisable by its iridescent blue eyes and red bands. It is a small ~6cm long fish which can be found in rocky reefs on steep slopes and overhangs from Cape Reinga to the Stewart Island! During breeding season, the males become brighter and set up nests in small depressions on rock faces. The males will often guard eggs from several females - super dad! There are 27 endemic species of triplefins in New Zealand! We are the triplefin capital of the world, with ~⅙ of all triplefin species being only found in New Zealand.

IUCN red list status: Stable

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Crested weedfish

Losing their habitat

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Facts

Crested weedfish - Cristiceps aurantiacus NATIVE

Photo credit: Crispin Middleton (Seacology) 

The Crested Weedfish is a skilled cryptic predator that is native to New Zealand and Southeast Australia. It is incredibly camouflaged to look, and move, like a blade of kelp. From here, it ambushes its prey and hides from its predators. They can grow up to 200 mm long, are found in stands of kelp from low water to depths of about 55 metres and vary in colour, camouflaging with their surroundings.

Check out this amazing documentary on the crested weedfish!

 The Weedfish short doc

IUCN red list status: Least Concern

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Horopekapeka - Bronze whaler

Restores the balance

black angel fish

Facts

Horopekapeka - Bronze whaler - Carcharhinus brachyurus NATIVE

 

The bronze whaler is one of the largest reef shark species, and one of the most abundant large shark species in New Zealand coastal waters. They live in shallow coastal waters during the summer – reefs, bays, estuaries and surf beaches, and in winter are found further offshore. It is also the species most likely to be encountered by divers around New Zealand, from Cape Reinga to Cook Strait. The bronze whaler, as the name suggests, is bronze to grey-brown in colour. 

They are opportunistic eaters, mainly eating small schooling fishes such as kahawai and scavenging dead animal matter.

IUCN red list status: Vulnerable

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Blue maomao

Has an arch named after them

black angel fish

Facts

Blue maomao - Scorpis violacea NATIVE

 

Blue maomao are native to the southwestern Pacific Ocean from Australia to New Zealand and the Kermadec Islands, where it can be found in inshore waters from the surface to depths of 30 m. They are schooling fish in inshore and rocky areas, feeding on zooplankton, crustaceans, salps and fish eggs, often near the surface. The juveniles are similar in colouration to sweep but are distinguishable by their yellow anal fin which turns blue as they mature.

 

They are abundant in the Poor Knights Islands where there is even a dive spot named after them - Mao Mao Arch!

IUCN red list status: Not Evaluated 

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Two-spotted demoiselle

Plankton feeders

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Facts

Two-spotted demoiselle - Chromis dispilus ENDEMIC

 

Two-spotted demoiselles occur in large schools in rocky reefs between the North and East cape of the North Island and at the Kermadecs at depths of up to 60m. They are plankton feeders, focusing exclusively on copepods in schools of up to 500 individuals. Male two spotted demoiselles are highly aggressive when courting females, fighting for prime territory with good resources and shelter. The eggs are laid in these territories and males will circle their nests to guard them from predation. We often see large schools of this endemic fish at the Poor Knights and Mokohinau Islands during our snorkel days. They are known for their very territorial nature and distinctive spots near their tail and dorsal fin. 

IUCN red list status: Least Concern 

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Manaia - Big-bellied seahorse

NZs only seahorse species

black angel fish

Facts

Manaia - Big-bellied seahorse - Hippocampus abdominalis NATIVE

 

Seahorses belong to the syngnathidae family, consisting of pipefishes, piphorses and seadragons! Big-bellied seahorses are the only seahorse species found around the New Zealand coastline and is one of the largest species in the world - growing up to 35cm! This seahorse is found among algae, seagrasses, and rocky reefs in shallow water, and attached to sponges and colonial hydroids in deeper areas. Seahorses are voracious feeders, eating mainly crustaceans, such as shrimp, and other small animals living among the seaweed, such as copepods and amphipods.

Male big bellied seahorses are super-dads, caring 300-700 young at a time in their pouch, caring for up to four broods in summer months.

IUCN red list status: Least Concern 

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Kōpūtōtara - Porcupine fish

Creates deadly poison

black angel fish

Facts

Kōpūtōtara - Porcupine fish - Allomycterus pilatus NATIVE

 

Porcupine fish are found in rocky reefs in the eastern Indian Ocean, and southern Australia and New Zealand at depths of 5 - 100m. They feed mainly on molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms, using  their fused teeth plate to crush hard shells. 

Like their cousins the pufferfish, they can ‘puff up’, expand their bodies using water, up to 3 times their original size. This is only used as a last resort as it seriously decreases their manoeuvrability. Porcupine fish, along with pufferfish contain a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which is produced by a symbiotic bacteria, as a defence against predators.

IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Kahawai

Fish herders

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Facts

Kahawai - Arripis trutta NATIVE

 

Kahawai are found all around New Zealand in coastal areas, harbours and estuaries, with juveniles preferring shallow coastal waters and adults open water. They live together in large schools and can often be found hunting for small fish such as anchovies and yellow-eyed mullet. Kahawai have a firm, solid body with strong swimming muscles, helping them to make lengthy migrations and feed in fast moving feeding events. They vary from grey-blue to blue-green above and are silvery beneath, helping them to camouflage in the ocean light from above and below, protecting themselves from predators. With their ability to cover vast distances quickly because of their strength and speed, it is difficult to protect them by means of marine reserves.

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Hiwihiwi - Kelpfish

Loves the surge zone[

black angel fish

Facts

Hiwihiwi - Kelpfish - Chironemus marmoratus NATIVE

 

Hiwihiwi are ray-finned fishes found in southern Australia and the North Island of New Zealand. This species is found in kelp and areas with macroalgae on reefs in shallow water in areas that are frequently subjected to powerful surges or waves. They feed on a range of invertebrates including small molluscs, crabs and sea urchins. They remain close to the seabed and move around the surge zone, using their large pectoral fins to steady themselves.

IUCN red list status: Not evaluated

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Lord Howe Island butterflyfish

Subtropical fish

black angel fish

Facts

Lord Howe Island butterflyfish - Amphichaetodon howensis NATIVE

 

This fish occurs in subtropical marine waters along the eastern coastline of Australia and as its standard name suggests, from Lord Howe Island. It can also be found down the east coast of Northland in New Zealand, at depths of between 10 and 150m in rocky coastal reefs and caves. Adults are usually seen in pairs whereas juveniles are often solitary. The Lord Howe Butterflyfish can be recognised by its colouration. It is yellow above fading to silver on the sides and below. There are five black bands on the sides and another along the top of the snout.

IUCN red list status: Least concern

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Blackmargin dartfish

Introduced via ships' ballast water

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Facts

Blackmargin Dartfish - Parioglossus marginalis 

 

This is a brownish dartfish with a white belly, a purple stripe above a black mid-lateral stripe, and greenish-blue patches. Endemic to eastern Australia from the Hawkesbury River, Sydney, to Wagonga Inlet, Narooma, New South Wales. The Blackmargin Dartfish also occurs in the North Island of New Zealand, where it has been found at Kaitoke wetland, Great Barrier Island and Waitangi Stream at Tom Bowling Bay, North Cape. It may have been introduced to New Zealand via ships' ballast water.

IUCN red list status: Data deficient

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