A critically endangered handfish has recently been 'spotted' near the mouth of the Huon Estuary. As part of research funded by the Threatened Species Commissioners Office, CSIRO has been undertaking surveys for the spotted handfish. While most of this work has been conducted in the Derwent Estuary, several sites in the D’Entrecasteaux have also been investigated.
The spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) was recorded adjacent to a salmon aquaculture lease (David Flynn CSIRO photo credit). This is very exciting news as it confirms an industry report, and that a second meta-population of this critically endangered species exists outside of the Derwent.
Recent CSIRO and UTAS video transect work on spotted handfish has shown that they prefer complex micro-habitats (Wong 2015). An impact on the handfish, identified by the species recovery plan, are yacht moorings, as their chains and rope smooth out the bottom.
Modern non-chain moorings have been developed for use in sensitive habitat such as seagrass. In Tasmania, CSIRO has 30 years experience in the design and deployment of non-chain moorings as research moorings are generally required to stay in one position - either for scientific reasons or due to deployment into sensitive areas. To help achieve this, a CSIRO invention was developed with a local company (Specialised Industrial Products), which includes a cost effective bungee mooring component, replacing the chain. In known habitat for spotted handfish, moving to non-chain moorings may be a useful option to better conserve habitat, if this can be done in a cost effective manner. Though, any changes to current moorings would need to be very carefully considered as to not impact on existing populations of fish.