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 

Sea hares  

Sea Hares

Aplysia juliana & Aplysia keraudreni



Sea hares come and invade our local dive site Wellers rock throughout the warmer months of the year and then disappear again after laying large egg Masses all over the place. The eggs look like yellow or red 2 minute noodles depending upon the species. They are named after their likeness between a hare with regards to what looks like ears and a curved back, they also eat sea lettuce.

An extended length of 30cm is not uncommon.

Sea centipede  

Sea Centipede

Idotea stricta



Sea centipedes have long bodies that consist of 8-10 plates. They live on seaweeds in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zone. They graze on seaweed and tend to match their colour with the weed they live on. They are often spotted on night dives within the harbour.

Commonly seen up to 6cm in length.


Sea anemone - Habrosanthus bathamae  

Sea Anemone - Habrosanthus Bathamae

Habrosanthus bathamae



This anemone has a bright orange or salmon coloured smooth column, it is endemic to New Zealand and only known to be in the Otago region.

Reaches a height of 48mm.

Sea anemone - Epiactis thompsoni  

Sea Anemone - Epiactis Thompsoni

Epiactis thompsoni



A large anemone with a smooth short column that is streaked with red and white. Tentacles are dull grey and may have purple or pink tips. Often found in the old ribbing of the Mokoia wreck at Aramoana.

May grow up to 70mm tall.




Many different species of sSalp frequent our waters. A Salp is a barrel-shaped, Planktonic Tunicate. It moves by contracting and pumping water through its gelatinous body. The Salp strains the pumped water through its internal feeding filters, feeding on Phytoplankton.

Size ranges from small 2cm up to 30cm.

Sandpaper doris  

Sandpaper Doris

Alloiodoris lanuginata



This nudibranch looks and feels rough like sandpaper. Its colour is variable and may be reddish brown to creamy pale and even have a spotted leopard appearance. It is commonly seen along the length of Aramoana.

Can reach up to 80mm in length.

Reef starfish  

Reef Starfish

Stichaster australis


Sun star



This large sea star can be lavender grey to orange in colour and has 11 arms. It is found from low tide to below the water and is common around mussel beds where it plays an important part to stop their expansion.

Seen in sizes up to 60cm

Ridgeback nudibranch  

Ridgeback Nudibranch

Atagema carinata



This nudibranch sometimes appears circlular in shape because its mantle is much larger than its foot. It is white with small orange gills on its rear, it commonly has a raised section aligned down the middle of it's back. They are commonly found at Aramoana amongst other encrusting invertebrates.

Reaches lengths of up to 60mm.

Painted prawn  

Painted Prawn

Alope spinifrons



The Painted Prawn has a colour pattern of longitudinal bands of green and red. It hides by day in dark rocky crevices and can be found in tidal pools on rocky shores. It scavenges on dead plants and animals. It is not commonly seen on dives but has been located on the Karitane reefs.

Approximatley 5cm from nose to tail.

Pie crust crab  

Pie Crust Crab

Metacarcinus novaezelandiae


Cancer crab, Red rock crab



This large crab can be found in large numbers in sheltered parts of the Otago Harbour and local inlets. It can crush cockles and other shellfish easily using its strong pincers. Males may be seen holding one or even two smaller females under their chins in order to protect them from predators including divers.

Carapace size is commonly seen at widths of up to 15cm.