Marine Life

 The Otago Peninsula is renowned internationally for its abundance of incredible sub-Antarctic wildlife.  Sir David Bellamy, once commented “in my opinion, the Otago Peninsula is the finest example of eco-tourism in the world” Seals and Sea Lions come ashore to lie on the rocks of the Otago Peninsula.  At Taiaroa Head, the Royal Albatross has established its only land-based breeding colony in the world. 


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    Fish and Mammals

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  Fish and Mammals | Invertebrates 

Yellow-foot paua  

Yellow-foot paua

Haliotis australias


Queen paua



The yellow-foot paua has a smaller and more elevated shell compared to the more common black-foot paua. It's shell is reddish to yellowish brown, the animal is black but it's tentacles and underside of the foot are yellow. It can be found on rocky reefs and wave exposed coasts usually in depth ranges between 1-5m. This paua is fished recreationally, and although quota is allocated for the species, it is not commercially harvested extensively. In the shallows of Aramoana especially in the first 1-2m the small yellow-foot paua are easily located.

Adults can grow up to 100mm in length.

Yellow encrusting sponge  

Yellow Encrusting Sponge

Darwinella oxeata



This sponge is endemic to New Zealand, it forms thin encrusting mats on rocky surfaces. It is bright yellow, soft and compressible to touch. It's commonly seen encrusting the boulders and wrecks of the Aramoana.

It can grow up to 20cm in diameter, and 3cm in thickness.

White-striped anemone  

White-Striped Anemone

Anthothoe albocincta


The white-striped anemone is the most common anemone encountered in shallow water. It's column is orange to brown and striped with white, Its disc is flat, bright orange and surrounded by it's white tentacles. It can defend it's self by shooting stinging cells from small openings in its column. Some boulders at the entance of the harbour provide area for great numbers of white-striped anemones.

Height and diameter can both be as large as 20mm.

Wellington nudibranch  

Wellington nudibranch

Doris wellingtonensis



The wellington nudibranch is the largest nudibranch found in New Zealand. It is covered in round pustules, and is stiff and slimy to touch. It ranges in colour from yellow green to pale purple. Unlike other nudibranchs it's gills cannot be retracted. It lays large spawn masses that look like thin yellow roses. Wellington nudibranchs are very commonly found at the entrance area of the Oatgo harbour.

May grow up to 30cm, but a length of 10cm is more common for adults.

Waratah anemone  

Waratah anemone

Actinia tenebrosa


Beadlet anemone, or Blood anemone



It is found in relatively high water in the intertidal zone. It's commonly found completely out of the water with its tentacles retracted waiting for the return of the tide. It is also commonly found in eastern and southern Australia where it's named after it's likeness to the common waratah flower. Wellers rock itself is oftten covered by waratah anemones in between the tidal variation.

Grows up to 30-40mm tall, and 40mm in Diameter.

Wandering anemone  

Wandering Anemone

Phlyctenactis tubrculosa



The wandering anemone is not permanently attached by its base, it frequently crawls and drifts in the current from one spot to another. They vary in colour from yellow to orange and brown but locally are most commonly a light purple. By day they are found in small balls which look like a gathering of baked beans, and by night their sticky tentacles emerge. More frequently found on sheltered to moderately exposed coats and subtidal reefs in amongst seaweeds. The Karitane areas has a good population of wandering anemones and are easily found.

They may grow up to 20cm in length.

Variable nudibranch  

Variable nudibranch

Aphelodoris luctuosa



The variable nudibranch comes in many colour formations, most commonly locally they are a smooth pale white, and can be found with brown staining along its back. They are commonly seen in around the Otago harbour entrance.

They may grow up to 80mm in length.

Triton nudibranch  

Triton Nudibranch

Tritonia incerta



The triton nudibranch is easily identified by its large orange body with small tufts of gills along its back ridges. It is rare amongst our dive sites and has only been found a handful of times at Aramoana and Harrington point.

It may grow up to and extended length of 13cm.

Triangle crab  

Triangle Crab

Eurynolambrus australis



It is named after its triangle-shaped shell which is bright red, however they are often covered in other marine growth. It feeds by scavenging the sea floor. Night dives are the best time to look for triangle crabs as this is when they appear to feed, but they still may be seen during the day.

Commonly seen with its carapace up to 8cm in diameter.

Three-and-three seastar  

Three and Three Seastar

Allostichaster insignis



The three-and-three seastar is a small sea star its colour ranges with different shades of orange. It has six arms, three of which maybe smaller than the other three. This is due to its reproduction being asexual, it divides in two and each half grows a new half. Three-and-three seastars can be found around the Oatgo harbour entrance.

Commonly seen up to 8cm in diameter.