This is the final annual report for INT2019-04: Identification and storage of cold-water coral bycatch.


Many protected coral species occur as bycatch in commercial fisheries around New Zealand. Fisheries Observers on commercial fishing vessels are not always able to identify this bycatch at sea with high precision (especially to species level), with the confirmation of species requiring identification from a coral taxonomist in many cases. For this reason, a research project was initiated in 2016 to determine, through the examination of returned coral specimens and specimen images, the taxon and the provenance of corals bycaught in New Zealand fisheries.

This report summarises the sample and image identifications of all observed coral bycatch collected under the project during the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. A total of 51 physical specimens in 36 samples were collected and returned for identification during the reporting period. Sub-samples from each live specimen were taken for future genetic studies (n=97). Additionally, there were 123 historical physical samples with revised higher-level identifications made during the reporting period, and these are also reported on.

A total of 255 specimens were identified by digital images during the reporting period; 214 were protected coral taxa, and 193 of these were able to be georeferenced. Additionally, nine specimens were identified by images received in April 2017 (for the reporting period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017). These historical specimens are black coral taxa, and five of them were able to be georeferenced. Also, two specimens (initially reported in Tracey et al. 2019a) were re-identified from Stephanocyathus platypus to Flabellum knoxi, and an unidentifiable bryozoan-looking specimen was confirmed as Bryozoa, after examination of the physical specimens. A further two specimens received in June 2020 and reported in Macpherson et al. (2020) were re-identified from primnoid coral Thouarella to black coral Parantipathes.

The data summaries herein are presented by Fisheries Management Areas (FMA), fishing method, and target fishery. The greatest number of protected coral specimen counts by images came from the Southern Offshore Islands (SQU6T within FMA6) and South-East Coast (FMA3) regions, as well as in the northern FMA’s (FMA1 and 9). Most were taken by bottom trawl operations targeting the deep-sea species orange roughy and smooth oreo, and arrow squid. Similarly, most protected corals identified from physical specimens came from orange roughy, smooth oreo, and arrow squid bottom trawl fisheries, and the highest number of samples came from Southern offshore Islands (FMA6A).

Publication information

Macpherson, D., Tracey, D. and Mills, S. 2021. Identification and storage of cold-water coral bycatch specimens 1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020. INT2019-04 final report prepared by NIWA for the Conservation Services Programme, Department of Conservation. 60 p.


Conservation Services Programme
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10-420
Wellington 6143


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