Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Brachiopsilus ziebelli
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01] (Waterfall Bay Handfish) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2012by) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan] as Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T6.01].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T6.01].
 
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01].
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (116) (20/01/2011) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011o) [Legislative Instrument] as Brachiopsilus ziebelli.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (123) (20/09/2012) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2012f) [Legislative Instrument] as Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01].
 
Scientific name Brachiopsilus ziebelli [83757]
Family Brachionichthyidae:Lophiiformes:Actinopterygii:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Last & Gledhill, 2009
Infraspecies author  
Reference Last, P.R. & Gledhill, D.C. 2009. A revision of the Australian handfishes (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with descriptions of three new genera and nine new species. Zootaxa 2252: 27-33
Other names Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T6.01] [66673]
Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01] [66674]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Brachiopsilus ziebelli

Common name: Ziebell's Handfish, Actaeon Handfish, Yellow-finned Handfish

Ziebell’s Handfish is conventionally accepted as Brachiopsilus ziebelli (Last & Gledhill 2009). The species was previously known as Brachionichthys sp. 1 and Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T6.01] (Edgar et al. 1982; Last et al. 1983).

The Waterfall Bay Handfish (Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01]) is now considered synonymous with Ziebell's Handfish. The Waterfall Bay Handfish was previously listed separately under the EPBC Act (TSSC 2012by).

Ziebell’s Handfish is the largest known handfish species, reaching a maximum total length of about 150 mm (DEH 2001). The species has a moderately short, rounded body that is usually humped near the head and tapers toward the tail (Last & Gledhill 2009). It has thick, flabby, smooth skin. Typically, the body is pink to white, with the upper surface and sides having purple to brown randomly placed blotches. Fins are generally bright yellow and, in some specimens, the yellow extends onto the body adjacent to the fins (Last & Gledhill 2009). The illicium (the modified first dorsal-fin spine) is pink to white (Last et al. 1983).

The colour of the body may also display a pattern of densely mottled, purplish spots/flecks that cover the body and fins in whole or part. Such specimens lack vivid yellow fins. Specimens with this colouration are commonly known as Waterfall Bay and Loney’s Handfish. Intermediate forms of these colour patterns have been observed (Last & Gledhill 2009).

Ziebell’s Handfish are restricted to eastern and southern Tasmania in widely disjunct populations (Last & Gledhill 2009). The species has been recorded at Bicheno, Forestier Peninsula, Tasman Peninsula, Actaeon Islands and Cox Bight in depths of 10–20 m (Last & Gledhill 2009). The Tasmanian Underwater Photography Society only discovered the species during surveys in 1977–81 (DEH 2001).

The Ziebell's Handfish population has not been systematically surveyed (DEH 2005u). However, ad hoc surveys done by Tasmanian dive groups suggest that the population of Ziebell's Handfish is small (DEH 2001).

In 2005, attempts by divers to locate specimens in locations where this species had previously been recorded, such as Waterfall Bay and the Actaeon Islands, failed to locate any individuals, suggesting localised declines (DEH 2005u). However, the lack of systematic survey of the species makes it impossible to determine whether populations are increasing, decreasing or stable (DEH 2005u).

The Ziebell's Handfish is found at depths of between 3–20m (DEH 2001). The species appears to prefer soft bottomed habitat, with patches of rock that support sponge and algae communities, which they use as spawning substrate (DEH 2001). But, the Actaeon Island population appears to be confined to a rocky-bottomed area of about 20 km² (DEH 2001). It has been found at the edge of towering kelp (Marcrocystis pyrifera) at the Actaeon Islands and in Cox's Bight (Edgar et al. 1982; Last et al. 1983), an ecological community that is now listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act (DSEWPaC 2012q). At Waterfall Bay, Ziebell's Handfish was found on rock ledges and in cracks on open walls at about 20 m depth; it was also found on ledges and in cracks on walls inside caves at 12–18 m depth (Gowlett-Holmes 2004 pers. comm. cited in DEH 2005u).

Due to the restricted distribution of known populations of Ziebell’s Handfish and their low dispersal, all areas in which they are found are considered important habitat (DEH 2005u).

Bruce and colleagues (1999) stated that the egg mass structure of Ziebell's Handfish is very similar to those of the Spotted Handfish (Brachionichthys hirsutus) and Red Handfish (Thymichthys politus). Egg masses have been found around sponges in depths of 20 m (Pogonoski et al. 2002). On emergence, hatchlings have been observed settling in the immediate area surrounding the location of the egg mass (DEH 2001). Key biological attributes for this species include (DEH 2005u):

  • they move by using their hands-like fins to crawl across the bottom
  • they depend upon vertical structures for spawning substrate
  • they have a low rate of dispersal
  • females remain with eggs until hatching
  • when eggs hatch, fully formed young emerge.

The diet of Ziebell's Handfish is unknown but probably consists of small invertebrates (Pogonoski et al. 2002) such as crustaceans and worms (Edgar et al. 1982). Individuals have been known to survive for long periods in aquaria being fed on shrimp (Pogonoski et al. 2002).

There is very little published information on Ziebell's Handfish. Information gaps for this species include precise information on habitat requirements, current distribution, current abundance and threats.

While threats to Ziebell's Handfish have not been identified, personal collection and the aquarium trade are known to threaten populations by removing individuals from the wild. Under the Tasmanian Marine Resources Managment Act 1995, a person, in State waters, must not take or have possession of handfish without a permit (DEH 2005u).

In addition, the Ziebell’s Handfish has a restricted distribution, a low abundance, and, like other Brachiopsilus spp., is believed to have a low reproductive rate and limited dispersal capability. Furthermore, the effect of increasing sea surface temperatures off eastern Tasmania (Ridgeway 2007) are unknown, but are likely to place greater pressures on handfishes.

Key threats to handfish habitat, and specifically spawning substrate include (DEH 2005u):

  • pollution from industrial storm water and sewage that may deplete spawning substrate
  • siltation of key estuarine habitat caused by land clearing

Collection of Handfish is an offence in Tasmania unless a permit has been issued under the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 (Tasmanian Government 2003). In 2005, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment had only issued permits for the take of handfishes for scientific research (Pullen 2005 pers. comm.).

Mangement documents relevant to this species are at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Illegal take Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Decline in habitat quality Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Predation/competition by introduced species Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:unspecified Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Household Sewage and Urban Waste Water:Pollution (chemicals, sewage) due to urban and agricultural run-off Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Changes to water and sediment flows leading to erosion, siltation and pollution Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Pollution:Pollution due to oil spills and other chemical pollutants Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Shipping Lanes:Habitat modification and disturbance due to dredging and associated activities Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Recovery Plan for four species of handfish (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005v) [Recovery Plan].

Bruce, B.D., M.A. Green & P.R. Last (1999). Aspects of the biology of the endangered Spotted Handfish Brachionichthys hirsutus (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae) off southern Australia. In: Seret, B. & J.Y. Sire, eds. Proceedings of the 5th Indo Pacific Fish Conference, Noumea 1997. Page(s) 369-380. Societe Francaise d'Ichthyologie, Paris.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011i). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 . [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-fish.html.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2012q). Giant Kelp Marine Forests of South East Australia. Species Profile and Threats Database. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=107.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2001). Draft Listing Advice - Sympterichthys sp. (Ziebell's handfish). Environment Australia, Canberra.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005u). Issues Paper: Population status of an threats to four handfish species listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. [Online]. Canberra. Available from: http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/4-handfish/pubs/4-handfish-issues-paper.pdf.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005v). Recovery Plan for four species of handfish. [Online]. Available from: http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/4-handfish/index.html.

Edgar, G.J., P.R. Last & M.W. Wells (1982). Coastal Fishes of Tasmania and Bass Strait. Page(s) 176. Tasmanian Underwater Photographic Society.

Last, P.R. & D.C. Gledhill (2009). A revision of the Australian handfishes (Lophiiformes: Brachionichthyidae), with descriptions of three new genera and nine new species. Zootaxa. 2252:1-77.

Last, P.R., E.O.G. Scott, & F.H. Talbot (1983). Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart: Tasmania Fisheries Development Authority.

Pogonoski, J.J., D.A. Pollard & J.R. Paxton (2002). Conservation Overview and Action Plan for Australian Threatened and Potentially Threatened Marine and Estuarine Fishes. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/marine-fish-action/pubs/marine-fish.pdf.

Pullen, G. (2005b). Personal Communication- 9th August.

Ridgeway, K.R. (2007). Long-term trend and decadal variability of the southward penetration of the East Australia Current. Geophysical Research Letters . 34:L13613.

Tasmanian Government (2003). The Spotted Handfish - Tasmania's Next Extinct Species?. [Online]. Available from: http://www.derwentriver.tas.gov.au/content/derwent_factfile/spothand.html.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2012by). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Sympterichthys sp. [CSIRO #T1996.01] (Waterfall Bay Handfish). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/66674-listing-advice.pdf.

EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Brachiopsilus ziebelli in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:18:17 +1000.