Story: Coastal fish
Page 6 – Widespread fish of the rocky sea floor
Not actually a cod but a sand perch, this endemic fish (Parapercis colias) is favoured by fishermen for its flaky, pinkish-white fillets.
The species is more common south of Cook Strait. They are inquisitive fish and will often approach divers and bite their fingers with their lippy mouths. Commercial fishing boats target them around the south-eastern coast and the Chatham Islands, where they are caught in pots like crayfish.
The bluenose (Hyperoglyphe antarctica) is widely distributed around New Zealand, usually near rough sea floor. They feed on fish, crustaceans and small squid in depths of 100–500 metres. They are an important commercial species and the catch increased rapidly from around 1980. The flesh is firm and pinkish, and whitens when cooked.
Groper and bass
The groper or hāpuku (Polyprion oxygeneios) is found all around New Zealand. The average length is 80–120 centimetres. They occupy a wide depth range, from reefs just below the surface down to more than 400 metres. They eat just about any moving animal that comes their way.
These important inshore commercial fish were once caught with deep longlining, but since the 1970s gill nets have been used. They are very popular with recreational anglers and make excellent eating.
Bass (Polyprion americanus) look similar to hāpuku, but are generally a stouter fish. They are often taken along with groper by commercial boats and are also good eating.
Let them eat cement
Leatherjackets have a reputation for eating just about anything, which probably helps explain their widespread distribution around New Zealand. Diver Wade Doak recalls some encounters:
‘Once when we were laying concrete underwater, leatherjackets sneaked up and gulped down our cement. While we were firing explosive concrete bolts into rocks, they would persistently take mouthfuls of cartridge grease, only to spit it out solemnly.’ 1
The endemic red-banded perch (Ellerkeldia huntii) has six or seven vertical brown bars over its reddish-brown body. This reef-dwelling species is unusual in that some individuals undergo a sex change from female to male as they mature.
Known to Māori as kōkiri, this fish has a distinctive body shape (it looks like a rugby ball) and a dorsal spine. Two species occur in New Zealand waters: the leatherjacket (Parika scaber) and the Morse-code leatherjacket (Thamnaconus analis). The Morse-code leatherjacket is very rare in New Zealand and is usually only seen around the Kermadecs.