Elegant wrasse are a widespread but uncommon species found on coral reef and rocky reef habitats at depths from 2 to 35 m. The distribution of elegant wrasse extends from southern Queensland to Montague Island on the NSW south coast, particularly around inshore islands. The species is also found at Lord Howe Island, especially in the shallow lagoon habitat, and at nearby Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs.
Elegant wrasse have also been recorded from Norfolk Island, the Kermadec Islands, New Zealand and other distant locations in the Pacific Ocean including Easter Island. Elegant wrasse are a subtropical, warm-temperate species that are active during the day.
Elegant wrasse are listed as a protected fish in NSW under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. Heavy penalties apply for taking or possessing them.
Elegant wrasse grow to approximately 30 cm in length. They have several colour forms and their appearance is reported to vary with age and size. Juveniles are similar to adult females, gold to dusky brown with light blue spots; however, juveniles lack a pink band on their cheek.
Elegant wrasse are protected due to their natural rarity and low abundance. The species is unlikely to be able to sustain fishing pressure.
Taking or possessing elegant wrasse (or any other species of protected fish) is an offence and heavy penalties apply. For corporations these penalties can include fines of up to $55 000 while individuals can face fines of up to $11 000 and up to 3 months in prison.
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For more information on general fishing regulations check with your local fisheries office or visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries
To contact your local NSW DPI Fisheries Office visit https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/contact-us/contact-a-dpi-fisheries-officer or phone 1300 550 474.