By Marie Hauge
This barely 20 cm long fish, with its characteristic “goatee”, was found in a bottom trawl performed by scientists aboard the research vessel “Dr. Fridtjof Nansen”. Their trained eyes quickly distinguished the newly caught specimen from the other members of the goatfish family. A new species had been discovered. After a quick baptism on deck, the special catch was named after Nansen.
Husband and wife Phil and Elaine Heemstra from South Africa were two of the people who went on the Institute of Marine Research’s 2007 voyage. He is a taxonomist and she is an illustrator. They are currently working on a book on fish species off the coast of East Africa. In a recent publication, taxonomist John E. Randall and Elaine Heemstra have identified and depicted the Parupeneus nansen, as well as two other goatfish that were also discovered on expeditions with the “Dr. Fridtjof Nansen”.
“It’s great news,” says Oddgeir Alvheim of the Centre for Development Cooperation in Fisheries. He went as a technician on the three-month-long voyage, and remembers very well the day when the new goatfish was hauled up in the net.
Rich fish fauna
The expedition off East Africa lasted from the end of September to the middle of December, and both pelagic trawls and bottom trawls were performed. Alvheim, who has been on many expeditions to East Africa, says that there are a rich variety of fish species in the area, with only few specimens of each species. It is not unusual for new species to be discovered on scientific expeditions in this region. Some of the fish are unknown, whilst others have been wrongly identified.
Occasionally fish from exotic regions are observed far from home, but it is unlikely that the Parupeneus nansen will appear at our latitudes. Goatfish can be found along the Norwegian coast as far north as Bergen, but of the species Mullus surmuletus, a hardier relative of the new discovery.
Norway has provided aid to the fishing sector in Mozambique for over 30 years, and the Institute of Marine Research has been involved right from the start. The aid provided mainly relates to fishing activities, but in parallel with increasing tourism and oil exploration in Mozambique’s coastal zone, ecosystem-based management is becoming ever more important.