Scientists recently discovered rare and new fish species when they descended to new depths while trawling the ocean floor east of New Zealand. Eight deep-sea trawls were carried out by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), an agency that deals with sustainable management of natural resources for New Zealand, to study fish distribution, abundance and ecology.


Flabby Whalefish

Flabby Whalefish One large flabby whalefish (species undetermined) caught at about 2,730 m. Very rare. Tiny eye, lacks ribs.


Cusk-eel Five specimens of the large warty cusk-eel Spectrunculus grandis, at depths of 2,100 to about 2,600 m. NIWA scientists dropped a net to the bottom of the sea floor to take samples at depths from 1,910 to 2,730 meters. The long wait to retrieve the net — it can take three or more hours — was worth it when researchers found a flabby whalefish, three new slickheads, a juvenile Richardson’s skate, large warty cusk-eel, new record of a white rattail, and several unidentified fishes, according to a NIWA press release. NIWA fisheries scientist Peter McMillan says, “We were fortunate to get an opportunity to explore this deep area on the Chatham Rise. It’s great to know what we have, and how much.”

Norman’s Slickhead

Norman’s Slickhead Mirognathus normani, caught at about 2,400 m. Not previously recorded from New Zealand. Strange beak-like curved jaws and small eye. Around 10 specimens are known from museum collections worldwide. These specimens were photographed immediately upon their removal from the ocean to preserve their color. They will be given to the Te Papa Tongarewa museum to be added to the National Fish Collection.
White Rattail
White Rattail One large white rattail (genus Coryphaenoides) caught at about 2,600 m. Not previously recorded from New Zealand waters. Rare. Peter McMillan

Richardson’s Skate

Richardson’s Skate Caught at 4 stations (1,910 to about 2,400 m). Very rarely seen, presumably because it lives so deep.

Slickhead Alepocephalus

Slickhead Alepocephalus Numerous specimens of a very large slickhead Alepocephlaus sp. caught at 1,950 to 2,200 m. These are possibly a new record from New Zealand.

Slickhead Leptochilichthys

Slickhead Leptochilichthys Caught at about 2,730 m, this genus has not been recorded from New Zealand waters before.
Unidentified Cusk-eel*
Unidentified Cusk-eel One unidentified cusk-eel, caught at 2,400 m. Uncommon. Peter Marriott

Unidentified Slickhead

Unidentified Slickhead Three unidentified fish, probably another species of slickhead, caught at 2,100 m. Probably a new record from New Zealand.

Photos and captions courtesy of Peter McMillan, NIWA..