June 2014
View the material prepared for Government observers on the identification of protected corals known to be caught incidental to fishing.

Download the publication

Coral identification guide (PDF, 4,560K)


This guide provides a summary of key identification features for the coral groups (Phylum Cnidaria) we find in the New Zealand region:

  • Stony corals;
  • Black corals;
  • Soft corals, sea fans, sea whips;
  • Sea pens; and
  • Stylasterid hydrocorals.

Revisions and improvements to guides such as these help provide a better understanding of what cold-water corals are, where they are most at risk from interactions with commercial fisheries, as well as improve our knowledge of the region’s species diversity.

This guide plays an important role in aiding fisheries observers by helping them correctly identify coral bycatch occurring throughout New Zealand waters. This data can then help ascertain the adverse effects of commercial fishing on protected coral species. Read more in CSP fisheries observers.

*Note this guide is to currently being updated over 2020/21.

Publication information

Second edition. Revised by:

Di Tracey, Erika Mackay, Dennis Gordon, (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
Stephen Cairns and Dennis Opresko, (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, U.S.A.)
Phil Alderslade (CSIRO, Australia)
Juan Sanchez (Universidad de los Andes, Santafé de Bogotá D.C., Colombia)
Gary Williams (California Academy of Sciences (CAS), San Francisco, California, U.S.A.)

Photographs were supplied by the authors’ organisations (NIWA, Smithsonian Institute, CAS, CSIRO), as well as by Dr Marcelo Kitahara (Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brasil), and Government observers.


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


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