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 

Hooker Sea Lion Male  

Hooker Sea Lion - Male

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.



Meuschenia scaber

FISH and Mammals

The only trigger fish species in our area, the body shape and dorsal spine is very distinctive. They may swim either forwards or backwards by using their undulating fins, they can be seen grazing sponges and ascidians or forming groups in mid water to feed on jellyfish and salps. Juveniles are commonly seen hiding amongst the short seaweeds of Wellers rock.

Reaches lengths of up to 45cm.

Long-snouted pipefish  

Long-snouted Pipefish

Stigmatopora macropterygia

FISH and Mammals

They come from the family (Syngnathidae) which also includes the seahorses. If you imagine getting a seahorse and stretching it out until it looks like a pencil you would have a pipefish. This particular species is named after it’s form of snout which is a narrow tube protruding from the face ending in a small mouth that's used to snap up small crustaceans. They are fairly common, but the hard part is finding them, they vary in colour from green and yellow to red brown and camouflage very well. Like Seahorses it’s the males that carry their young after the female deposits the eggs into his brood pouch until they are ready to hatch. Pipefish are probably frequent along the length of the harbour how ever they are extremely hard to spot.

Grow up to 40cm in length.

Maori chief  

Maori Chief

Notothenia angustata

FISH and Mammals

Getting it's name by the black tattooing appearance over its yellowish green face, the maori cheif has white patches along the body. Large maori chief have large ridges above and behind the eyes. They are found lying amongst rocks and seaweeds near caves and crevices on reefs. They usually will not move when approached and some even swim curiously up to divers. They are occasionly seen on the off shore reefs of Moeraki.

May grow up to 60cm in length.

Mottled triplefin  

Mottled Triplefin

Forsterygion malcolmi

Banded triplefin

FISH and Mammals

Identifiable by its pale body with irregular red-brown bands and orange eye. They are commonly seen resting near boulders and crevices and are commonly found along the length of the enitre Otago harbour. Spawning males also turn blackish particularly on their fins.

Lengths of up to 14cm can be found.



Aplodactylus arctidens

FISH and Mammals

Pale greener brown and heavily marbled with white, the marble fish swims with very exaggerated movement. They often approach divers, only to quickly dart away into a hole or crevice. They can be seen grazing seaweeds using there downward facing mouth. Many marblefish occupy holes of the Aramoana wrecks.

May grow up to 70cm in length.

Oblique-swimming triplefin  

Oblique-swimming Triplefin

Obliquichthys Maryannae

FISH and Mammals

The oblique-swimming triplefin is yellow-orange with a black stripe down the body, and black eyes, some may also have small black bands along their back. They are the only triplefin known to form schools which may be small in which just several fish swim together, or large when hundreds gather. Small schools can be found around the dive site of the harbour entrance.

Reaches lengths of up to 8cm.

Pot-bellied seahorse  

Pot-bellied Seahorse

Hippocampus abdominalis

FISH and Mammals

The pot-bellied seahorse is New Zealand's only seahorse species. It's found with its tail entwined around seaweed or another source of anchor waiting for prey to pass by which it sucks up with its small snout. They find calm sheltered harbours and bays to live in and can be found at most of our dive sites throughout the harbour but like many other critters their camouflage makes them harder to spot.

The largest seahorse in the world, it grows up to 35cm in length.

Spotted stargazer  

Spotted Stargazer

Genyagnus monopterygius

FISH and Mammals

Stargazers can rapidly bury themselves into sand and mud using their big pectoral fins, once buried they can be near invisible with only their mouths and eyes showing just waiting to lunge out at unsuspecting prey. The spotted stargazer is covered in large creamy white spots. They have been seen at Wellers rock and Aramoana but are not commonly found.

Can grow up to lengths of 45cm in length.

Red cod  

Red Cod

Pseudophycis bachus

FISH and Mammals

Copper, pink or greyish above, white or pink below, they are found on all bottom types. In shallow water they hide under overhangs or in caves by day and are only active at night. In deeper what they are active by day and form large congregations. They use their sensory barbel on the lower jaw to detect prey buried in the sand or mud. Large red cod can be found under the over hangs and in crevices of the wreck s at Aramoana.

May grow up to 90cm in lengfth.