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 

Brittle star  

Brittle Star

Ophiopsammus maculata


Snake brittlestar



The Brittle star is dark red to purple and is very fast moving. It is sometimes confused for octopus as it hangs its arms out of cracks and crevices.

The diameter are seen at around 30cm

Camouflage anemone  

Camouflage Anemone

Oulactis muscosa


Speckled rock anemone



The base is firmly attached and the column is very short and usually not seen. They are found nestled in crevices surrounded by rocky pebbles. The disc colour varies but is commonly a dark red and the tentacles are differing colour with a speckled pattern. Often seen in the pebbly areas of Aarmoana.

Ranges up to 45mm in height, and disc width of 40mm.

Black-foot paua  

Black-Foot Paua

Haliotis iris



The paua has a large ear shaped shell and is famous for its magnificent colouring or blue and green on the underside of it's shell. It has also has the colouring on the exterior but is usually covered by growth including sponges and algae. The animal itself has a large black foot and is the fastest moving snail in the world. They are found on exposed areas of the coast where they graze on algae in small and large congregations.

Grows up to 20cm in length.

Biscuit star  

Biscuit Star

Pentagonaster pulchellus



The biscuit star looks to be heavily armoured around it's outer body. They are a small seastar that varies in colour from purple, orange and red. Commonly seen amongst the wrecks and boulders of Aramoana.

Commonly seen up to 10mm in length.

Apricot sea star  

Apricot Sea Star

Sclerasterias mollis



The apricot sea star is apricot in colour and has white spines along it's entire body. They are occasionally seen at Wellers rock and around the harbour entrance.

Generallr around 15-20cm in diameter.

Apricot anemone  

Apricot Anemone

Bundodactis chrysobathys



The apricot anemone is a large anemone with a golden, orange or apricot coloured column that is covered in small pale verrucae, and white tentacles. It is endemic to the south east coast of the South Island and only found off the shores of Otago, lyttleton and Akaroa. Large apricot anemone can be found on the end of the Wellers rock wall.

Height up to 100mm, and 50mm in diamater.

Arabic volute  

Arabic Volute

Alcithoe arabica



The arabic volute gets its name from the purplish brown marking's on its shell that are supposed to look like Arabic writing. It is a large snail that is seen on the move on night dives around the muddy bottoms of the harbour entrance.

Generally around 10cm in length.

New Zealand Fur Seal  

New Zealand Fur Seal

Arctocephalus forsteri


FISH and Mammals

Fur Seals are more common than sealions around the rocky coastline but are not commonly encountered in the water because of their weariness of humans. They differ from sealion in being smaller and having a pointed snout. Occasionally during a dive a fur seal will speed past and dart around a diver in curiosity.

Males have been reported to be as large as 250 kg, but the average weight is about 126 kg. Males can also grow to be 2 meters long. Females are between 30-50 kg on average, and can grow to be as long as 1.5 meters.

Banded Wrasse  

Banded Wrasse

Notolabrus fucicola

FISH and Mammals

Banded wrasse are usually found around areas with lots of kelp, and are most abundant in water shallower than 10m, they are extremely common on most dive sites with these features. They are usually very active, but can be found resting in crevices especially at night. They have very powerful canine teeth that allow them to pry off limpets and barnacles and also eat mollusks, crabs and sea urchins. Unlike other wrasse banded wrasse don’t change sex. They vary in colour between juvenile and adult form as well as sex, ranging from yellow, red to deep blue with light and dark bands sometimes visible.

The banded wrasse is the largest species of wrasse in New Zealand and can grow up to 60cm, weigh 5kg and possibly reach an age of 35 years.