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New Recovery Plan for 3 handfish species

21/03/2016
A new national Recovery Plan for Three Handfish Species is now available on http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/recovery-plan-for-three-handfish-species

The plan is for spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus), red handfish (Thymichthys politus) and Ziebell’s handfish (Brachiopsilus ziebelli) - all of which are found only in Tasmania, and are now either listed, or under consideration to be listed, as Endangered under the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995

The plan considers the conservation requirements of the species across their ranges. It identifies the actions to be taken to ensure their long-term viability in nature, and the parties that will undertake those actions.

This recovery plan is a revision of the 2005 National Recovery Plan for Four Species of Handfish. The taxonomy of these handfish has changed. Ziebell’s handfish and Waterfall Bay handfish, treated in the 2005 Recovery Plan as two distinct species, are now formally recognised as a single species (Brachiopsilus ziebelli). The scientific name of the red handfish, previously Brachionichthys politus, is now Thymichthys politus.

The 2005 recovery plan and the 2013 expert review of the recovery plan are available from: www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/recovery-plans/four-species-handfish The review noted that, despite limited availability of resources, there had been a sustained effort to implement some recovery actions for the spotted handfish in the Derwent Estuary and recovery plan objectives had been partially met for this species. However, it was noted that limited progress had been made on implementation of the recovery plan actions for red handfish and Ziebell’s handfish, with progress limited to resolving taxonomic uncertainties.
The plan identifies the following threats to the three species:
  • loss/degradation of habitat, particularly spawning substrate;
  • pollution and siltation of waterways from both diffuse and point-source activities;
  • traditional boat moorings;
  • the spread of invasive Northern Pacific seastars (Asterias amurensis); and
  • additional possible threats: fishing; direct predation; illegal collection for the aquarium trade; bioaccumulation of heavy metals; and climate change.
  • stochastic events and loss of genetic variations: all three species have small population sizes, highly fragmented distributions and low dispersal abilities.

The new ​recovery plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline, and support the recovery, of handfish species in Australian waters. The overarching objectives of this recovery plan are to:
  • ensure an ecologically functional wild population of spotted handfish that, with limited site-specific management, has a high likelihood of persistence in nature, and
  • increase the understanding of the biology and ecology of spotted handfish, red handfish and Ziebell’s handfish in order to conserve, and contribute to the future recovery, of each species.

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