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Rare fish find at Tauranga marina

The sargassum weed fish.

It’s called a frog fish, an angler fish or a sargassum fish, and finding one in Tauranga Harbour among the Bridge Marina pontoons is a rare event.

It was found by Lucca and Vitor Saraiva on Sunday afternoon.

“One of them spotted it and the other grabbed it by hand,” says their Dad, Antonio.

Vitor aged eight, thought it might be something unpleasant, or poisonous. Lucca just grabbed it.

“We have a guy at the marina named Mark, he knows all about fish,” says Antonio.

It was taken to Mark’s son Kees Tucker, in a bucket.  Kees’ dad Mark operates Orca Wild Adventures. With Kees getting out to Mayor Island ‘quite a bit’, interesting finds are sent to Mark Paterson at the Waikato University’s marine field station at Sulphur Point.

“I’ve been regularly bringing Mark stuff from Mayor, but we don’t normally see stuff like that,” says Kees. “I’ve just recently started doing it because I found a lot of cool stuff.”

“It was just sitting next to a pontoon in the water but you could see it from the pontoon,” says Kees.

At first he thought it was a crested weed fish, but Mark at the aquarium determined it is a Sargassum weed fish, Histrio histrio.

Mark took it back to a tank at the field station, where he could have a closer look and try and more positively identify it.

They have been found in New Zealand waters before, usually after cyclones. There is an earlier report of a weed fish being found in the Bay of Plenty in 1978, says Mark.

“They have been recorded at the Aldermans and off outlying islands, but it is very unusual to find one in our harbour, says Mark.  “That’s why I thought it might be a bit newsworthy.”

Mark is the marine technician who looks after all the aquariums and all the live fish at the field station.

Wikipedia describes Sargassum weed fish as Superbly camouflaged anglerfish covered in fleshy weed-like appendages and filaments to resemble algal fronds and branches. They usually live amongst floating mats of Sargassum algae out in the open ocean. Individuals use their arm-like pectoral fins to clamber over the seaweed.

Sargassum Fish range in colour from shades of pale yellow to brown, with irregular lines, blotches and spots to resemble their seaweed home.

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