SPECIES: Thymichthys politus — Red Handfish
CLASSIFICATION: Critically endangered
The Red Handfish is a rare species of anglerfish endemic to Tasmania’s eastern coast. They are small, colourful and to their detriment, slow moving. Usually no more than 6cm in length, their body is covered in tiny spines. This particular species varies in colour from bright red to light pink/brown – unique, just like a fingerprint. Lacking the swim bladder organ that other fish have, keeping afloat is a challenge. Rather than swim, this fish has adapted pectoral fins that resemble hands, so it actually walks along the ocean floor.
The Red Handfish was first discovered in the 1800s and, in recent times, populations have been documented in the 1980s and 1990s. There is likely to be no more than 100 of these fascinating fish left on the planet. Infamously, the Red Handfish became the first fish to be listed as critically endangered on the worldwide IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Endangered Species.
The Red Handfish faces loss of habitat due to pollution, rising water temperatures and an increase in native urchins which has destroyed Red Handfish kelp habitat. By design, the species has a low reproductive rate, and in addition, are also susceptible to poachers and illegal collection – because they are just such slow movers.
Today we have announced our newest project partnership to save the Red Handfish from extinction. To find out more, visit the project page of the website: www.fame.org.au/projects/saving-the-red-handfish
Photo: Rick Stuart-Smith