Category: Protected Species

Threatened species are one category of protected fish. There are also a number of other rare fish that are protected from fishing or collecting. Although populations of these species are not currently declining, they must be protected so that they do not become threatened at some time in the future.
Marine or estuarine species listed as protected: All Syngnathiformes (seahorses, seadragons, pipefish, pipehorses and seamoths), Ballina angelfish, Bluefish, Eastern blue devil fish, Elegant wrasse, Estuary cod, Giant Queensland groper, Grey Nurse Shark, Herbsts nurse shark, Great White Shark and the Weedy seadragon.
As responsible Spearfishers it is our responsibility to ensure that any targted species is correctly identified and not a Protected species BEFORE attempting to spear or capture it.  
Ensure that you carefully study the following species in this section and are able to positively identify them if you see them in the water.
There is NO EXCUSE, if in doubt, DO NOT pull the trigger.

Eastern Blue Devilfish

Common Name: Eastern Blue Devilfish
Scientific Name: Paraplesiops bleekeri
Maximum Size: 40cm
NSW Record: 0.624kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW.

The Eastern Blue Devilfish is a rarely sighted species, living deep within cave system, often in family groups of several adults and juvenile fish. It can be found in estuaries, as well as deep offshore waters. Its most often spotted at dawn or dusk, or on heavily overcast days, near the entrance to the cave. A uniquely coloured species, it is difficult to confuse with any targeted fish species. Care should be taken when spearing fish such as Black Drummer in caves, in case this species is also present.

Grey Nurse Shark

Common Name: Grey Nurse Shark
Scientific Name: Carcharias taurus
Maximum Size: 400cm
Range:  QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA.

The Grey Nurse Shark is probably the most commonly seen large shark in NSW. It can be found around headlands, particularly near large cave systems; islands and deepwater bommies. Usually the sharks aggregate in schools, ranging from a few to over a hundred individuals. Juveniles can be found in water as shallow as 1-2m and seem to avoid hanging around large adults.

This species is generally placid, although the use of burley and the vibrations put out by speared fish may result in having to deal with agitated and inquisitive sharks. Divers have been bitten under these circumstances, however the injuries were minor.

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Blue Groper

Common Name: Blue Groper
Scientific Name: Achoerodus viridis
Maximum Size: 120cm
NSW Record: 19.054kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC

Note: Linefishers may take still take this species. See NSW Fisheries website for legal lengths and bag limits

The Blue Groper is a commonly seen species on NSW reefs and is easily distinguished by its size and swimming technique. The frantic waving of the pectoral fins is a swimming style common to the Wrasse family, to which this species belongs. The juveniles and females can range in colour from light brown to dark green, the dominant male takes on a bright to dark blue colouration. Should the male die, or be caught by linefishers, the next largest female will change into a male over a period of several days.

 

Queensland Groper

Common Name: Queensland Groper
Scientific Name: Epinephelus lanceolatus
Maximum Size: 300cm
NSW Record: 177.81kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, NT, WA

The Queensland Groper is the largest bony fish found in rocky and coral reef habitat. The distinct markings shown above can fade to a dusky grey in large fish, however the sheer size makes them difficult to confuse with other species. Although in the past the author has confused them with boulders and attempted to hide behind them while stalking other fish. 

Seahorses, Seadragons and Pipefish

Common Name: Seahorses, Seadragons and Pipefish
Scientific Name: Syngnathidae
Maximum Size: 40cm
Range:  QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA, NT.

Seahorses, Seadragons and Pipefish belong to the family Syngnathidae and are completely protected in NSW. It is illegal to harvest them for any purpose, including for aquariums, unless special permits are granted.

Seahorses can often be found in estuaries, clinging to sponges and seapens.

Pipefish are commonly found in estuaries, particularly in seagrass meadows.

The only species of Seadragon found in NSW is the Weedy Seadragon, which is found in deep kelp stands and seagrass meadows, especially in sheltered bays.

 

Black Cod

Common Name: Black Cod
Scientific Name: Epinephelus daemelii
Maximum Size: 120cm
NSW Record: 81.00kg (before it became a protected species)
Range: QLD, NSW, VIC.

The Black Cod is found in rocky and coral reef habitat ranging in depth from inter-tidal rockpools to deep waters well offshore. Its colouring can range from greyish-white to pure black. The colour form pictured above seems to be the most common in shallower areas. The black spot on the caudal fin is a key identifying mark. It can be confused with the Wirrah which has a deeper body and blue spots on the head and body. Other similar Serranid species include the Purple Cod and the Maori Cod, both of which have similar cave dwelling habits, but quite different colouration.