Scientists in Australia have rescued 25 red handfish from their natural habitat off the coast of Tasmania in an attempt to safeguard one of the world's rarest marine species. This intervention aims to protect the species from escalating threats, including warming seas and environmental degradation.
The red handfish, distinguished by their unique crimson and brown coloration and hand-like fins, are among the rarest fish globally. With an estimated wild population of only about 100, these small fish, approximately 8 centimeters long, are known for their distinctive mode of "walking" along the seabed using their pectoral and pelvic fins.
Jemina Stuart-Smith, a marine scientist, emphasized the dire situation, stating, "This summer has already well exceeded previous temperature maximums." The combination of rising sea temperatures, overgrazing by urchins, runoff from urban areas, and disturbances from boats has led to severe habitat loss and degradation, as reported by the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.
Dr. Andrew Trotter, a researcher at the Institute, highlighted the team's commitment, noting that "highly experienced staff are looking after the fish seven days a week, with a 24-hour call-out roster."
As of Jan. 31, the 25 rescued specimens were reported to be faring well in their temporary aquarium homes. The scientists are closely monitoring them for stress or health issues. The plan is to return the fish to their natural habitat as the austral winter approaches in June, hopefully to more favorable conditions.