THEY are the rarest fish and seahorses found off our coastline and researchers now think they may be even more scarce than previously thought.
Sightings of the Ballina angel fish, the elegant wrasse and the ornate ghost pipefish have been few and far between during a recent study.
The program has been undertaken by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and SCU researchers from the National Marine Science Centre. The study involved the collection of data based on sightings by recreational divers and research agencies.
“Understanding the geographical ranges and abundance of threatened and protected fishes, and the specific habitats in which they occur, were critical gaps in knowledge,” Associate Professor Stephen Smith said.
“We were surprised to find that some species, such as most seahorses, were quite rare in northern NSW waters, except for perhaps deep waters.
“We also found that the Ballina angel fish and the elegant wrasse were rare. In years past, these species were reported to have been more common at sites from Coffs Harbour to Tweed Heads.
“We cannot really say why so few of these species have been seen recently, and Lord Howe Island and oceanic reefs may be among the last refuges for these species,” he said.
Although sparse, at least one other species, the Eastern blue devil fish, was sighted commonly by researchers and the diving public.