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 

Red-banded perch  

Red-banded Perch

Hypoplectrodes huntii

FISH and Mammals

The body of the Red-banded perch has 7 orange/brown bands from back to belly, its head and fins are orange. This is occasionally seen in otago on offshore reefs around Otago where boulders, overhangs and caves are found such as on Moeraki's fish reef.

Reaches lengths up to 20cm.

Rock cod  

Rock Cod

Lotella rhacinus

FISH and Mammals

Rock cod look very similar to the red cod and southern bastard cod but differ in being fawn to dark brown in colour. They live in caves and crevices on rocky reefs and emerge at night on crabs, shrimps, and small fishes. They are often seen swimming about the wrecks of Aramoana on night dives.

Can grow up to 50cm in length.

Sand flounder  

Sand Flounder

Rhomobosolea plebeia

FISH and Mammals

Flounder lie on the bottom in wait during the day, relying on their camouflage to keep them safe. They cover them selves partially in sand or mud and can even change their appearance rapidly to blend in. Easily identified by their flat diamond shape they tend to appear mottled above and white below. They are commonly found around the harbour entrance, and in some estuaries and bays.

Grow up to 45cm in length.

Scarlet Wrasse  

Scarlet Wrasse

Pseudolabrus miles

FISH and Mammals

Scarlet wrasse have three different colour phases for each juveniles, females and males. All have a scarlet head with white below and a black wedge on the tail. They are most abundant below 15m amongst reefs, boulders and crevices and commonly seen at Aramoana. Diet consists of small invertebrates such as crabs, brittle stars and sea urchins. Juveniles and females sometimes act as cleaner fish.

They grow rapidly maturing at 1 year of age. Females also can change sex at around 4years old. Scarlet wrasse may grow up to 40cm in length.

Sea perch  

Sea Perch

Helicolenus percoides

Jock stewart

FISH and Mammals

Sea perch are a part of the scorpion fish family, they are commonly seen sitting on the bottom under overhangs and around crevices awaiting a meal to pass by. They are mottled brown and white and have large bulgy eyes and grumpy looking faces. Under the overhangs of the Aramoana wrecks very large sea perch can be seen.

Grows up to 45cm in length

Small-scaled notothenid  

Small-scaled Notothenid

Notothenia microlepidoto

FISH and Mammals

Dark blue, green or purple-brown, with some mottling, they have yellow at the base of their pectorals fins. A member of the antarctic cod family they occasionally find there way as high as Otago where they are found swimming around in the seaweed. During certain years we have had small numbers take refuge at the harbour entrance. They are also seen on occasion at the reefs of the Karitane peninsula.

Grows to lengths of up to 65cm

Southern bastard cod  

Southern Bastard Cod

Pseudophycis barbata

FISH and Mammals

Southern bastard cod look very similar to red cod but differ in being grey-brown with light grey or white blotches. They feed nocturnally on crabs, shrimps, and small fishes. They can be found in the crevices of the boulders at Aramoana but are not as common as the red cod.

Can grow up to 60cm in length.

Southern pigfish  

Southern Pigfish

Congiopodus leucopaecilus

FISH and Mammals

The southern pigfish has an easily identifiable head with a short snout like mouth and high spiny dorsal fin. Its body is brown and blotched dark brown and cream. They are usually found resting on the bottom and are extremely docile having almost no fear of divers and often just staying put. They are only seen a few times a year and have made appearances at Wellers rock, Aramoana and even under the Dunedin wharf.

Adults range between 20-35cm in length.

Spectacled Triplefin  

Spectacled Triplefin

Ruanoho whero

FISH and Mammals

Spectacled triplefins live on reefs wear they hide amongst the shelter of crevices or boulders. They have large eyes surrounded by a thick black band from which it gets it's name by appearing to wear spectacles. Following the eyes are Light blue circles which eventually fade off into the entire length of the body. Spawning males are dark brown in colour with the same colour patterns. They are commonly seen at Aramona amongst the small boulders.

Ranges between 4-8cm in length.

Spotted Triplefin  

Spotted Triplefin

Forsterygion capito

Mottled triplefin

FISH and Mammals

This species of triplefin is often highly confused with others because of its colour pattern being highly variable. It is commonly pale with grey or black speckling but may also be mostly dark with light blotches and speckling along the body. They are found abundantly on the muddy bottom of Wellers rock amongst shells and other rubble.

Reaches up to 12cm in length.