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Red Handfish (Thymichthys politus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 192521873

Conservation of the red handfish (Thymichthys politus), potentially the world’s rarest marine fish.

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 192521873) - Red Handfish - Awarded $17,750 on October 15, 2019

The Red handfish is arguably the most threatened marine fish in the world. The species is only currently known from two small patches of rocky reef in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia. 


Red handfish live on rocky reef habitat, relying on the mixed seaweed cover for egg laying and cover/protection from predators. Both remnant populations appear most immediately threatened by the loss of seaweed cover, primarily through over-grazing by sea urchins (possibly triggered by exploitation of sea urchin predators such as lobsters) but also at risk from nutrient pollution. Small population size (and inbreeding), illegal collection, and climate change represent other key potential threats. 


While Reef Life Survey (RLS; reeflifesurvey.com) monitoring at one of the sites has occurred since 2010 and provides important trend information for habitat & ecological components, accurate population size estimates require a full systematic census of the remaining habitat/population.


A primary objective of this project is therefore to repeat the census at the second known Red handfish site, allowing the global population size to be more accurately estimated, so that conservation actions can be better informed.

A second objective is to improve public awareness and understanding of the status of Red handfish and key threats to its survival. Support is required from the local community for the Government, Tasmanian and Australian communities, to drive better long-term support for the Red handfish, and the global community, with changing climate a critical long-term threat to Red handfish and countless other threatened species.

Project 192521873 location - Australia, Oceania