January 2011
Learn about the corals returned through DOC's Conservation Services Programme (CSP) Observer Programme during the 2009/10 fishing year (1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010).

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Primnoid sea fan corals. Photo: NIWA DTIS image.
Primnoid sea fan corals

Identification of Protected Corals (PDF, 124K)


This final research report presents on the requirements of Project DOC103045/ INT2009-03: To identify samples of corals returned through the Department of Conservation (DOC) Conservation Services Programme (CSP) Observer Programme during the 2009/10 fishing year (1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010).

Protected species need to be adequately described to ensure legal obligations of the Wildlife Act are followed. The Wildlife Act (1953) was amended in 2010, and under Schedule 7A now protects additional species in the Cnidaria group. In addition to the black corals (Order Antipatharia) and red hydrocorals (Errina sp.), all gorgonians (O. Gorgonacea), stony corals (O. Scleractinia), and hydrocorals (F. Stylasteridae), are now protected.

Samples of any protected coral taxa, or of corals that may appear to be protected coral taxa, that were taken as by-catch by commercial fishing vessels during the 2009/10 fishing year (1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010), were returned by observers as part of the CSP Observer Programme requirements. The coral by-catch samples (213 records comprising 341 specimens), were sorted and identified to the lowest possible taxa (families, genera, or species). International experts confirmed a proportion of the coral identifications.

The data were loaded from the NIWA Central Observer Database (OSD) into the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) Centralised Observer Database (COD) managed by NIWA. The NIWA Invertebrate Collections (NIC) database (Specify) currently stores a proportion of the coral sample information as several coral samples are held in stewardship by NIWA for DOC. Specify was also updated.

All fishing event data associated with the coral samples (e.g. target species, depth), are presented in Appendices. Samples returned for identification at NIWA were taken as bycatch from 23 commercial trips, targeting 10 fisheries, and representing eight Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs), and three high seas fishing areas. Fisheries that have had corals recorded as by-catch include those for deepwater and middle depths species such as orange roughy, smooth oreo, white warehou, alfonsino, and hoki.

The deepsea coral samples returned by observers represent a valuable data source. Accurate identification data can be used to assess the incidental catch of corals (Rowe and Tracey 2008), contribute to producing distribution plots for protected or species proposed to be protected (Consalvey et al, 2006; Rowden et al. 2008; Tracey at al., submitted); for systematics and species identification (Sánchez et al. 2008), and to elucidate the relationships between invertebrates and commercial fishing activity. The information will continue to enable researchers and managers to identify areas where deep sea corals are at highest risk of interactions with fishing gear and to assess the value of identifying subsamples of corals returned by observers and, specifically, whether there is an ongoing need to monitor and quantify the level of interaction between fisheries and protected corals.

Publication information

Author: Di Tracey and Brian Sanders

NIWA Client Report: WLG2011-2. January 2011. NIWA Project: DOC10304 / INT200903


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


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