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This record provides an overview of the scope and research output of NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub Project A10 - "Conservation of handfish and their habitat". For specific data outputs from this project, please see child records associated with this metadata. -------------------- Spotted and red handfish are critically endangered. Prior to 2019, this project commenced a scientifically robust monitoring program to track conservation trajectories and performance of recovery plan actions across all known sub-populations of Spotted Handfish. An innovative geo-reference photographic method provided both capture-mark-recapture information and sub-population fish densities as a proxy for abundance. Collecting this data was a crucial first step for a future project of targeted placement of artificial spawning habitat (ASH) and to determine minimum population size to inform sustainable capture of brood-stock for captive breeding. From 2019-2020, the project was extended to include Red Handfish. In accordance with the signed Handfish Recovery Plan, this project will conserve Red and Spotted Handfish through various direct conservation actions guided by research. This includes replanting of the degraded plastic artificial spawning habitats (ASH) with a re-designed array of ceramic units, assessment of taut eco-friendly moorings in critical spotted handfish habitat, genetic and capture mark recapture studies for both species, a population viability analysis (PVA) and performance assessment of management actions. The project will also continue a captive breeding project with industry, and engage with the broader community through talks, outreach and publications and re-establishment of the handfish recovery team.
Adult and sub-adult Red handfish (Thymichthys politus) and Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) preserved specimens and underwater images were used for analysing morphometrics (comprising of specimens from the CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection and underwater images). Individuals were measured for the morphological traits using electronic callipers (±0.1 mm) for preserved specimens and using Image J software for digital records. Note digital image size calibration occurred using a ruler in images or from size taken in situ. The purpose was to investigate whether external morphometrics could be used to determine sex in handfishes.
Dive surveys were conducted in 2014 and the same sites resurveyed annually until 2019, to establish a baseline and monitor the status of the critically endangered spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) population. This dataset is a summary of all surveys season 2014 to 2019 in which the 11 sites across the Derwent Estuary and D'Entrecasteaux Channel were assessed. The data describes the search effort (transect length, swathed area) and counts of handfish observed on each transect, including size measurements (total length) and depth records for each sighted fish. Note that the specific latitude and longitude of individual fish have been redacted due to the vulnerable status of the species. Contact the point of contact listed in this record for more information.