NORFANZ research survey
Survey reveals unique marine life
6 June 2003
Scientists exploring the deep seas between Australia and New Zealand on the NORFANZ survey return to Wellington tomorrow (Saturday 7 June) after discovering many new and varied marine communities.
The voyage has surveyed marine life at depths down to two kilometres, and recorded and photographed more than 500 species of fishes and 1100 species of marine invertebrates. These show a fantastic diversity in forms and adaptations, and many of the new records are for species which have been rarely sampled.
For example, the first samples to be taken offshore around Lord Howe Island revealed healthy populations of fishes new to science, and other fish species previously thought to be rare or endangered.
Scientists say these discoveries suggest the special nature of marine life found in shallow waters around Lord Howe Island (now protected in marine parks) extends much deeper than previously known, at least to the edge of the Lord Howe Rise plateau at around 200 metres deep. This fauna is unique and occupies a diverse range of habitats not found elsewhere.
The NORFANZ survey is jointly funded by New Zealand's Ministry of Fisheries and Australia's National Oceans Office, who have each contributed half a million dollars, with scientific support from New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and involves more than 20 scientists, including visiting experts from France and the USA.
Some highlights of the NORFANZ discoveries are:
- The Ballina angelfish (Chaetodontoplus ballinae): In one sample, the survey has more than doubled the world's total number of specimens of this beautiful little angelfish. Known from only two specimens, it is considered so rare that it has been formally recognised as threatened. A short trawl in about 100 metres depth off Ball's Pyramid (a pinnacle just south of Lord Howe Island) collected three adult specimens, suggesting that a viable population of this poorly known species occurs on this remote seamount.
- Galapagos sharks: the survey caught about 20 small individuals that were identified, and returned live to the sea. On board, shark expert Dr Peter Last of CSIRO said "This population may represent one of the highest and least threatened concentrations of Galapagos sharks of any region of the world".
- Other findings included a new species of redfish (genus Centroberyx), a group of fish which have high commercial value elsewhere in the world. "The new species has only been found in the Lord Howe region," said Dr Clive Roberts, of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Chief Scientist for the voyage.
Images of these and other fascinating marine species recovered during the NORFANZ voyage can be found on the website at www.oceans.gov.au/norfanz
Note to New Zealand media:
The RV Tangaroa will return to Taranaki Wharf, by Te Papa Tongarewa, at 2.50pm, Saturday 7 June. Scientists will be available to talk to media from 3-3.50pm.
For further information please contact:
Sarah Morton, Communications Specialist, Ministry of Fisheries
Telephone 04 494 2370, 0274 818 111
Katrina Haig, Public Affairs Officer, National Oceans Office
Telephone 0061 3 6221 5036