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 

Carpet shark  

Carpet Shark

Cephaloscyllium isabellum

FISH and Mammals

Carpet sharks are light brown with irregular spots and blotches. They are found resting under caves and overhangs during they day and may be found resting in groups. They are sluggish and easily approached and generally pose no threat, however their teeth are like sharp sandpaper so do still deserve some respect. Carpet sharks become active at night and can be seen roaming in search of food. Occasionally we have spotted carpet sharks at Aramoana and Wellers rock and we commonly see them on the offshore reefs of Moeraki.

Lengths of up to 1m can be reached.

Common roughy  

Common Roughy

Paratrachichthys trailli

FISH and Mammals

They have a copper brown body that is rough like sand paper. The common roughy is nocturnal and found in caves and crevices by day throughout the dark innards of the Aramoana wrecks, and found out feeding on night dives.

May grow up to 30cm in length, but usually seen at around 10cm.

Common conger eel  

Common Conger Eel

Conger verreauxi

FISH and Mammals

Conger eels are blue grey but larger eels are almost black, they have large fleshy lips and grow very large. The conger eel is our only local eel and usually found with just the tip of its head protruding from holes and crevices, or roving in search of food on night dives. Conger eels stay in the same spot for a long period of time, making it easy to check upon local residents living in particular spots in the Aramoana wrecks.

Great lengths of up to 2.2m.

Common Sole  

Common Sole

Peltorhamphus novaezeelandiae

FISH and Mammals

The sole is oval in shape compared to its close relative the flounder which take on a diamond appearance. They too live on sand or mud bottoms and are found along beaches such as the one at Karitane. They are easily approached as they trust their camouflage which seems to work because spotting them can be the difficult.

Lengths of up to 46cm in length.

Common triplefin  

Common Triplefin

Forsterygion lapillum

FISH and Mammals

The common triplefin's body varies in colour from white to grey/black, it has a black stripe from eyes to tail which is hard to identify in black fish. After a planktonic stage they settle onto branched brown seaweed, this can be seen on the seaweeds on the Wellers rock wall where they are plentiful. Later they move onto open cobble bottoms and are sometimes seen cleaning parasites from larger fish.

Grows up to 8cm in length.

Dwarf scorpionfish  

Dwarf Scorpionfish

Scorpaena papillosus

FISH and Mammals

The dwarf scorpionfish is usually found resting on the bottom in wait for prey to swim by and then strike. It has excellent camouflage and blends in very well. It is uncommon but has been seen on reefs in the Catlins area.

Reaches lengths of up to 25cm.

Copper Moki  

Copper Moki

Latridopsis forsteri

FISH and Mammals

Very similar to the blue moki except for being silver with copper stripes down the back, and the tail may have black margins. They often associate and school with blue moki, however they are less abundant.

May reach 65cm in length.

Girdled Wrasse  

Girdled Wrasse

Notolabrus cinctus

FISH and Mammals

Juveniles are pink brown with a pale band across the middle body, adults have a darker grey or black band. They are very inquisitive often approaching divers. Juveniles often attempt to nibble the mask and hood area, perhaps because they are a cleaner fish for larger animals. Usually found on rocky reefs deeper than 15m, schools on the reefs of Moeraki are often found.

Usually fish of 15 - 35cm are seen.



Eptatretus cirrhatus

Blind eel

FISH and Mammals

The body is long and elongated with a paddle like tail, It has no eyes. They are rarely seen at our dive sites but have been spotted a few times at Aramoana and Karitane, they have the ability to produce slime when disturbed and threatened above and below the water.

Reach a length of up to 80cm.

Hooker Sea Lion Female  

Hooker Sea Lion - Female

Phocarctos hookeri

New Zealand sea lion

FISH and Mammals

The hooker sealion always gives us our most entertaining underwater encounters. They are not to be confused with a New Zealand fur seal, they are identifiable by their blunt nose, being larger and the difference in colour between males and females and the males mane. Males are larger and dark in colour where as females are silver white. Sealions are also generally unafraid of humans especially in the water when encounters can become boisterous on the sealions behalf including behaviour like nudging, nibbling fins, bubble blowing, and light mouth bites on the body and head. We have never had any injury caused by a sealion however they should be given respect and proper practise is to stay still and be boring and not give it any active attention and eventually the sealion should move on.

Adult males are 2.4-3.5m long and weigh 320-450 kg, Adult females are 1.8-2m long and weigh 90-165 kg.