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 

Grey side-gilled slug  

Grey Side-Gilled Slug

Pleurobranchaea maculata



This pleurobranch is active both during the day and night. It occasionally shows up around the Wellers rock area, where it's seen crawling along the muddy bottom. It varies in colour from brown to creamy yellow. It is toxic but can only be harmful when orally ingested.

Grows up to 10cm in length.

Eleven armed seastar  

Eleven Armed Sea Star

Coscinasterias muricata



Named after their eleven long arms. As they grow they change colour, small stars are green to blue-grey while bigger ones are beige to orange.They will eat almost anything including shellfish and kina and are often seen chasing down paua moving surprisingly quickly.

Grows up to 50cm in diameter.

Golden-margin nudibranch  

Golden-Margin Nudibranch

Chromodoris aureomarginata



This nudibranch has a smooth bright white mantle ringed with a golden margin, It's rhinophores and gills are translucent white. It is abundant at Aramoana and sometimes is found at Wellers rock and other spots around the harbour entrance.

Grows up to 45mm in legnth.

Finger sponge  

Finger Sponge


Big lobed finger sponges cover parts of the rocky walls inside the Otago Harbour.

Finger length varies but is seen commonly up to 50cm.

Dahlia anemone  

Dahlia Anemone

Undescribed species


Subtidal red anemone



It has a variable column colour but commonly it is dark pink or red with red spots scattered around. The tentacles are also variable in colour but commonly have a mixture of red, white and pale blue bands.

Height up to 80mm, and width up to 90mm.



Jasus edwardsii


Spiny rock lobster



Famous throughout New Zealand the crayfish is unmistakable for it's appearance on a dinner plate. The Otago harbour provides a nursery for small crayfish, they can be seen on dives around rocky walls and reefs. The outer offshore reefs provide great structure made up of boulders and broken reef for larger crayfish to congregate.

Maximum total body length is 58 cm for males, and 43 cm for females.

Deadman's fingers  

Deadman's Fingers

Alcyonium aurantiacum


Common soft coral



A species of octocoral the deadman's fingers is a soft coral that forms thick mats or lobed colonies. It is covered in polyps with 8 tentacles that are able to be retracted. On the wrecks of Aramoana it is common to see small colonies of deadman's fingers upside down on the undersides of the wrecks.

Colonies can be up to 30cm high and cover 30cm by 30cm areas.

Cushion Star  

Cushion Star

Patiriella regularis



A very common species with colour variations from orange-red to blue, yellow and green, and easily identifiable by its soft arms and 2 white dots near the centre of the body. They usually have five arms but animals with four to eight arms are common as well. They are scavenger that feeds on both living and dead organisms such as barnacles and microscopic algae. Very common at Wellers rock and in the very shallows of the Otago harbour.

Maximum size with arms spread is up to 60mm.

Circular-saw shell  

Circular-Saw Shell

Astraea heliotropium


Star shell



A cone shaped shell with jagged saw like pieces protruding spirally around the edges. The circular-saw shell is green to blueish grey but is often seen encrusted in other life. Some areas are largely ancursted in these shell's such as around the Waikouaiti point.

Size can be heights of up 60mm, and widths of 120mm.

Camouflage crab  

Camouflage Crab

Decorator crab



We have multiple species of Camouflage crab and it can be difficult to determine which species is which. They secrete a sticky mucus which they use to attach plants and other organisms to it's back and legs so they camouflage into their surroundings. Once you gain an eye for spotting them you will realise just how many there are.

Some crabs can be 20cm wide while others are smaller species may be only up to 4cm.