Spotted Handfish - Brachionichthys hirsutus

Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment for the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 18 January 2023

Applicant: CSIRO

Species/Taxon: Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus)

Location: Operations will take place within the lower Derwent Estuary. Nine populations have been identified and monitored where spotted handfish populations are present. 

Title of research: Project A10 - Conservation of handfish and their habitat, funded through National Environmental Science Programme (NESP).

Aim of project: Spotted handfish are Critically Endangered, and in accordance with the signed recovery plan, CSIRO and partners will conserve them through various direct conservation actions guided by research. 

This includes planting ceramic artificial spawning habitats, assessment of taut eco-friendly moorings in critical spotted handfish habitat, genetic and capture mark recapture studies for the species using photographs, a population viability analysis and performance assessment of management actions and increase the genetic pool of captive bred spotted handfish. 

Justification: The proposed collection activity is required to maintain one of the current conservation actions for the spotted handfish population in which captive population of spotted handfish, established as a fail-safe strategy. 

The initial cohort of spotted handfish was placed in captivity in 2017, their estimated age of ~5 is reaching close to the average age of natural mortality. 

This activity will be required to maintain the current captive stocks and increase genetic diversity on the captive population.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: 20 individual fish will be collected, a maximum of 5 from any site.

Activities undertaken and methods: Collection will be conducted by a CSIRO SCUBA diver using a hand net and a perforated container. There will be minimal disturbance to other organisms.

On land, CSIRO has professional aquarium staff who operate the CSIRO holding tanks where the fish will be transported to from the vessel and monitored until ready for transport to commercial partnered aquariums (Seahorse World, Tas, SeaLife Melbourne Aquarium). CSIRO performed this operation successfully in 2017.

Fate of animals: The animals will be placed in commercial aquariums where they will remain (Seahorse World, Tas, SeaLife Melbourne Aquarium).

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): While this operation will involve the removal of spotted handfish from the wild population, the density data from the most recent annual monitoring (2022) and the density trend data from historical monitoring (Lynch et al 2022) will be able to guide this operation on where population will be most abundance or suitable for collection. Animals will be sourced across 8 sites in the Derwent Estuary. A maximum of 5 fish from one site will be collected to ensure spread across 8 populations.


Scientific Research Permits
Environment Division
GPO Box 44
Hobart TAS 7000