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Kathryn's Call: What do you know about Handfish?

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Did you know that there are only 14 species of Handfish that are found in Australian waters? The majority of the species are found in Tasmania, with the Spotted Handfish, Red Handfish and Ziebell's Handfish listed as critically endangered. There are two new books for younger readers that share some interesting information about the unique Handfish.

What's happening to protect these unique fish?

The National Handfish Recovery Team (NHRT) was formed in 2014 and coordinates the research program for the three species of handfish in Tasmania. You can find out more about their projects here.

Hold On!Saving the Spotted Handfish was shortlisted in the 2021 CBCA Eve Pownall award category of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards. It is a factual fiction book which tells us all about Handstand, a Spotted Handfish, who lives in the waters off Tasmania. He is tiny, just measuring 13 cms, and walks along the seabed on his hands (pectoral fins). He does not have a swim bladder like other fish so cannot always swim away from danger. The Spotted Handfish was one of the first marine species to be on the Threatened Species Red List as his habitat is threatened by introduced predators, climate change, fishing nets and dredging, pollution and rubbish as well as anchors from boats. This is a great read and the illustrations are vibrant and full of life. You will learn all about this amazing creature that has survived since the time of the dinosaurs.

Coco, the Fish with Hands is the first book in the Endangered Animal Tales series. It tells you the story of Coco, the Spotted Handfish, who goes on a long journey to find somewhere safe to lay her eggs. Coco usually lays her eggs around a sea squirts or sea tulips but the Northern Pacific sea star has eaten many of these plants so Coco must find somewhere else to go. Along the way she is in danger from crabs but she cleverly outwits them! Coco eventually finds a mate and lays her eggs in a safe place. The Spotted Handfish stays with her eggs until they are hatched. Did you know that the babies are called fry and are only 6mms long? How tiny! The illustrations are bright and colourful and this is a lovely story to learn some new facts about a very clever little marine creature.


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