Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus)


Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 15 March 2024

Applicant: CSIRO

Species/Taxon: Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus)

Location: Derwent Estuary

Title of research: Conservation of spotted handfish and their habitat.

Aim of project: Assess spotted handfish habitat and fish health and density.

Justification: The spotted handfish are a critically endangered angler fish known from only 14 locations in South-East Tasmania. Each site is isolated so local calamities at individual sites can result in local extinction.  Without concerted conservation effort, they remain at a high risk of extinction.  Currently estimated minimum wild populations are 2000 individuals.

All wild populations are also at imminent risk of extinction in response to marine heatwaves as handfish become increasingly distressed when the water temperature rises above 18 degrees. There has been a recent range contraction that is related to the East Coast of Tasmania being a climate change hotspot. The spotted handfish is currently at the southern extremity of their distribution, with no suitable habitat further south in which to expand if waters continue to warm at their current rate.

To conserve the spotted handfish, a Recovery Plan has been implemented, with actions that include a SCUBA dive-based and ROV monitoring program, planting of artificial spawning habitats (ASH) for handfish to wrap their egg masses. Annual monitoring ensures active conservation of the species and their habitat.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: (if impossible to estimate, indicate effort eg number of traps to be used and how long to be set)

Non-disturbance monitoring only

Activities undertaken and methods:
Annual monitoring of spotted handfish and their habitat via two methods: SCUBA diving and Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). The aim is to determine fish density, habitat restoration by planting ceramic artificial spawning habitats (ASH), which is a proven restoration method for this species and habitat health assessment.

Fate of animals: Non-disturbance

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): N/A


Scientific Research Permits

Environment Division
GPO Box 44,
Hobart, TAS, 7000.