Australian Marine Parks

Thursday 23 December 2021

Parks Australia is unlocking the secrets of Tasmania’s deep with a surprise sighting of the very rare and threatened Pink Handfish (Brachiopsilus dianthus).

A detailed joint survey with Parks Australia and the University of Tasmania showed the
endangered fish on underwater camera in the wild and remote Tasman Fracture Marine Park.

The species was last seen by a diver on the Tasman Peninsula in 1999 and was recently
listed as endangered by the Tasmanian Government.

Parks Australia First Assistant Secretary, Jason Mundy, said, “Collaboration is the key to surveying this extraordinary marine park where underwater canyons and mountains hold a remarkable diversity and abundance of marine creatures, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

“This rare sighting during a joint survey with the University of Tasmania demonstrates the benefits of working in partnership with research institutions in managing our marine parks,” he said.

A marine scientist made the ‘needle in a haystack’ discovery while analysing video footage from a baited remote underwater stereo video used in the survey, which was led by marine biologists, Associate Professor Neville Barrett and Dr Jacquomo Monk.

Associate Professor Barrett said, “the joint survey is a fantastic opportunity to document the species that live in the Tasman Fracture Marine Park and understand which are the common and the rare species in these remote and inhospitable environments.

“The biggest surprise was in finding a pink handfish in the park at a depth of around 120 m. Until this sighting, the species had only ever been recorded four times and was listed as a rare species under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Act earlier this year.

“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,” Associate Professor Barrett said.

The Tasman Fracture Marine Park is particularly known for a key ecological feature—an enormous crack in the earth’s crust where marine life has been found on the seabed to depths of over 4000 metres.

The park features gorgonian corals, gooseneck barnacles and millions of round, purple spotted sea anemones.

It is one of 58 Australian Marine Parks managed by Parks Australia. Together with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve, these parks comprise one of the world’s largest networks of marine parks, spanning 3.3 million square kilometres – or 37 per cent – of Australia’s waters. 

Video of the pink handfish sighting is available for download.