SPECIES: Brachionichthys hirsutus — Spotted Handfish
CLASSIFICATION: Critically endangered
No! Your eyes are not deceiving you. It's a fish - with hands - appearing to casually be strolling along the ocean floor. The Spotted Handfish, one of 14 species of Handfish found only in Australia are predominantly found off the coast of Tasmania. They are small, colourful and to their detriment, slow moving. They have a relatively short, rounded body covered in tiny spines and this particular species is covered with very individual orange, brown or black spots, unique, just like a fingerprint.
At the present, it's a scale very out of balance, the threats building up on what is left of the small, fragmented populations of Spotted Handfish. By design, the species has a low breeding capacity to start with. There is currently an ongoing problem with an introduced species of seastar which contributes to a reduction of available spawning substrate, with a focus on controlling the seastar around known populations of the Spotted Handfish.
Photo: Rick Stuart-Smith