The Conservation Services Programme of the Department of Conservation Marine Species team recognise that Government Fisheries Observers on commercial fishing vessels are not always able to identify protected cold-water corals at sea with high precision (especially to species level), with the confirmation of bycatch species requiring identification from a coral taxonomist in most cases. This project was initiated to identify to lowest taxonomic level, all retained protected coral specimens and digital images collected from fishing events within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone. Overall identifications of 412 returned protected coral specimens (from observed bycatch and from fisheries surveys) and 663 digital images (from observed bycatch), have been made since the project began in 2017.
This report summarises the specimen sample and digital image identifications made of coral bycatch that occurred during the final year of the project, from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019. A total of 12 observer collected coral specimen samples were collected and identified during this reporting period. An additional 17 historical observer and 8 trawl survey samples were identified to achieve target sample numbers. Updates were then made to the Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ)/Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) (referred to throughout as FNZ) Centralised Observer Database COD.
A total of 239 specimens were identified (observer identification confirmed or amended) from digital images. Of the 239 specimens, 178 were protected coral taxa, and 169 of these were able to be georeferenced, leaving nine protected coral specimens with no associated position information due to missing station number or incomplete FNZ photographic logs and ‘Benthic Materials Form’ data. A description of mis-identified fauna is presented. Loading of the digital image data into COD occurred for this reporting period.
Sub-samples from specimens with live tissue were taken for future genetic studies (n= 50 samples now accumulated).
Tracey, D., Macpherson, D., Mills, S. (2019). Identification and storage of cold-water coral bycatch specimens: 1 July 2018- 30 June 2019. Final Annual Report prepared by NIWA for the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation. INT2015-03. NIWA Client Report 2019362WN. 39 p.