11 new fish species found along Andhra Pradesh coast

11 new fish species found along Andhra Pradesh coast

VISAKHAPATNAM; A recent study has documented 11 fish species for the first time along the Andhra Pradesh coastline, highlighting the rich biodiversity associated with artificial reefs and rocky shoreline habitats.

The research, led by Dr JS Yogesh Kumar, Scientist-E from the Zoological Survey of India, was published in the Journal of Fisheries under the title “Notes on some newly recorded fish from the Andhra Pradesh coast, India.”

The newly-identified species include the Vermiculated Blenny, Singular Bannerfish, Sea Blenny, Similar Damsel, Blotcheye Soldierfish, Seychelles Soldier, Threespot Squirrelfish, Moon Wrasse, Peacock Sole, Whitelipped Eel Catfish, and Papuan Toby. Notably, Entomacrodus Thalassinus has been recorded for the first time in India.

The study, conducted between 2019 and 2023, involved scuba diving and collection from trawler trash and Visakhapatnam Fishing Harbour.

Specimens were photographed and preserved, with identifications based on morphological characteristics. These specimens are now part of the National Zoological Collections at the ZSI Sunderban Regional Centre.

Nine of the 10 species, recorded for the first time in Andhra Pradesh, have been classified as least concern by the IUCN, while one has not been evaluated.

Researchers emphasised the significance of reef habitats, which provide foraging grounds and shelter for marine organisms, including crustaceans and mollusks. Approximately 25% of marine fish are associated with reef ecosystems. Reef fish diversity is closely-linked to the health of reef ecosystems, which face threats from thermal fluctuations, coral bleaching, coastal development, and overfishing.

“AP, ranked third in marine fish production in India, has a relatively low number of documented marine fish species compared to its production. Previous studies have largely focused on economically profitable fish collected from markets, which do not accurately represent the diversity of reef-associated species. Fish trawlers often avoid reef areas to prevent net entanglement and reef destruction,” it noted.

The findings highlight the critical role of reef fish in maintaining the health of reef ecosystems. The newly-recorded species, including Entomacrodus Thalassinus, indicate that non-commercial benthic fish have been overlooked.

The research calls for comprehensive future studies on blennies (generally bottom-dwelling fishes) and other reef-associated species to better understand their biology and ecology, which is essential for conservation planning.

Further, researchers mention that the discovery of new species not only enhances understanding of marine biodiversity in AP, but also aids in the development of more effective conservation strategies.

Given that almost 25% of marine fish are associated with reef ecosystems, protecting these habitats is crucial for maintaining marine diversity and ecosystem health, the study observed.