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Hāpuku find new home at National Aquarium of New Zealand

Published: 25 August 2020

Settling in hapuku

One of the four hāpuku, pictured, in its new home

Regular visitors to the National Aquarium of New Zealand may notice some new fishy “faces” in the main Oceanarium exhibit.

It is the new home for four hāpuku, recently transferred from NIWA’s Northland Marine Research Centre at Bream Bay.

Originally wild fish, each weighed between 12 and 15kg and were about 10 years old when caught between 2016 and 2018 for NIWA’s longrunning sustainable hāpuku aquaculture research.

Having completed their role as broodstock in the aquaculture programme, several of the hāpuku were offered to the National Aquarium.

Staff travelled to Northland to collect the fish from NIWA and bring them back to Napier. This required careful planning by specialist aquarium staff, and included a customised transport system that allowed real-time water quality monitoring and control.

On arrival the fish spent some time in a holding tank under close observation before being released into the main aquarium.

Early accounts of hāpuku indicate they were once abundant and even found in quite shallow water. Their appeal as a high quality eating fish and the ease with which they could be caught meant accessible groups were quickly fished out.

These days, mature hāpuku are seldom found in less than 60 meters water depth, and usually only by well-equipped deep water fishermen, says Joe Woolcott, General Curator. “We are delighted to be able to share this species and their story with our visitors. They have settled in really well and are proving a highlight for our divers and visitors alike.”

The work that NIWA has put into aquaculture is remarkable, and it is exciting to think about the place this could potentially play in the future sustainability of New Zealand’s marine environment, he says.

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