Look what's lurking in the deep...

By Paul Harper

The flabby whalefish was one species pulled up from the deep off the coast of New Zealand. Photo / NIWA
The flabby whalefish was one species pulled up from the deep off the coast of New Zealand. Photo / NIWA

New "strange-looking" fish species have been discovered close to the ocean floor east of New Zealand.

The new species were discovered by National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research scientists trawling from the research vessel Tangaroa, who sampled depths from 1,910 to 2,730 metres, northwest of the Graveyard Hills on the north Chatham Rise.

The trawls uncovered a flabby whalefish, three new slickheads, a juvenile Richardson's skate, large warty cusk-eel, new record of a white rattail, and several unidentified fish.

Below 2,100 metres, the scientists observed fewer fish, with only small numbers of skates, slickheads, rattails, and cusk-eels found there.

New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone is over 4 million square kilometres. Just over half that area is deeper than 2,000 metres.

NIWA fisheries scientist Peter McMillan said: "We were fortunate to get an opportunity to explore this deep area on the Chatham Rise. It's great to know what we have, and how much."

The fish were photographed shortly after they were brought up, allowing scientists to capture their fresh colour. The catch from each station is recorded and then specimens are labelled and frozen.

The species will be handed over to Te Papa where they will be preserved, researched and stored in the National Fish Collection.

The voyage was funded by Land Information New Zealand's Ocean Survey 20/20 programme and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Photos can be found here.

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