New Zealand has a diverse array of marine fish – over 1,000 known species. Most are found widely through Australasia, the Indo-Pacific and the Southern Ocean. Around 11% are endemic – occurring only in New Zealand. Many of these are inshore species such as triplefins, common in rock pools. Of the 270 species of coastal fish, about 25% are endemic.
Described here are the more common, sought after and interesting species of the coast, reef and rock pool.
Many species are widespread around the coastal waters of both main islands. Coastal waters can be defined as the stretch of water up to the edge of the continental shelf. Included are estuaries, sandy shores, rocky coastlines, offshore reefs and the continental shelf.
Northern and southern
Around 15% of coastal fish prefer the warmer waters of the far north, reaching southern limits between East Cape and Cook Strait. A small proportion are tropical wanderers that show up during summer.
Distinctly southern species (8% of all coastal fish), which prefer cooler waters, reach their northern limits between Banks Peninsula and Cook Strait.
The remaining 77% of coastal fish are found in both southern and northern waters.