Divers in Tasmania have discovered a new population of red handfish, doubling the known population of the elusive and extremely rare fish and raising hopes that more may be found. Until last week the remaining population of red handfish, Thymichthys politus, was believed to be confined to one 50m long reef in Frederick Henry Bay near Hobart in south-east Tasmania. A recent survey at that site found eight individual fish at that site, prompting scientists to estimate the reef housed 20 to 40 handfish.
The second site, discovered on a similarly-sized bit of reef a short distance away, is estimated to house the same number of fish. It was discovered after a member of the public reported seeing a red handfish in the area and a team of seven divers spent two days searching the reef.
“We were diving for approximately three and a half hours and at about the two-hour mark we were all looking at each other thinking this is not looking promising,” diver Antonia Cooper said.
“My dive partner went to tell the other divers that we were going to start heading in and I was half-heartedly flicking algae around when, lo and behold, I found a red handfish.”