Conservation of Spotted handfish

Supervisor team may include:

Dr Tim Lynch (CSIRO)
Dr Neville Barrett (IMAS)

Spotted handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) are a critically endangered anglerfish known from only 10 sites across the Derwent estuary and D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Since 2014 monitoring of these sub-populations has been undertaken using geo-referenced underwater photography.

This provides both spatial data on densities for ‘hot-spot’ analysis and also tracking of individuals as adult fish have unique spot patterns. To assist in data analysis the pattern recognition software, I3S, was successful trailed in 2016. Data collection will continue through 2017 and we plan to pursue a variety of conservation and behavioural research questions.

First, a simple minimum population size estimate is required to advise government for the immediate commencement of a captive breeding program.

Second, with the developers of I3S, the pattern recognition software program needs to be optimised for spotted handfish.

Third, distributions and movements of fish both within and potentially between sites needs to be determined for management of threats. Forth, the size distribution of fish, especially for recaptures, will be used to investigate age and growth to determine the species life span. Finally, a more sophisticated capture-mark-recapture model that takes into account life-history characteristics, needs to be developed to better estimate the population size.

The project will involve extensive small boat and diving field work. Candidates will hence need to have or be able to achieve the required certification for scientific diving prior to commencing field-work. This includes a recreational diving ticket, at least 20 logged dives and the ability to pass a diving medical. Candidates will also be expected to work towards a coxswain certification. With the exception of the initial recreational dive ticket all training and other expenses will be paid for by the project.

Suitable for February or July start date.

Contact Neville Barrett ( for more details.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
October 7, 2019