Beneath the surface on Lord Howe Island. In 1982 the Lord Howe Island Group (comprising Lord Howe, Admiralty and Mutton Bird islands, and their surrounding marine environments) was World Heritage listed. Within 20 years the island’s underwater world was further protected in the 3485sq. km Lord Howe Island Marine Park, which encompasses both state and commonwealth waters.

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    In the shadow of the jetty south of Old Settlement Beach, a mass of juvenile striped catfish, common in temperate waters, swirls beneath the fiery fin display of a tropical common lionfish.

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    Shark inhabitant of Lord Howe. Enclosed by the world’s southernmost barrier reef, Lord Howe Island is 1000km south of the Great Barrier Reef and 780km north-east of Sydney.

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    In contrast, the barnacle-encrusted carapaces of white-spotted hermit crabs are a common sight in Lord Howe waters.

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    Lord Howe Island is the most southerly point in the range of many tropical fish. And 16 fish species are found nowhere else on earth but in this ecological hotspot.

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    A green turtle swims in the lagoon at Lord Howe Island, a World Heritage-listed area with a size of 1455 ha and population of 350. It is the worl’d most southerly coral reef.

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    The marine environment of this isolated speck of NSW is renowned for its populous mixture of tropical and temperate species, like this blotched fantail ray, delivered on converging currents.

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    The twin peaks of Mt Gower (right) and Mt Lidgbird are distinct geological features of this island, which forms a natural lagoon.

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    In these rich waters, cool-water species such as New Zealand fur seals mix with hordes of tropical fish species.

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    A white-mouth moray flashes its namesake for the camera. Lord Howe Island is the furthest south this sinuous sea creature is found. Although it dwells at depths of up to 36 m, it can also be seen hunting at low tide amid partly exposed reefs for fish and crustaceans.

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    Lord Howe’s warm, sheltered waters are the perfect place for a fledgling scuba diver such as 10-year-old Daniel White to spend time with marine creatures.

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    Researchers dive beneath the waters at Lord Howe to inspect the health of reefs and wildlife.

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    The McCulloch’s anemonefish. Zooxanthellae provide the anemone with its bright colours, so when they’re expelled the anemone appears pale and bleached and, if the zooxanthellae are not reabsorbed, it eventually perishes. Anemonefish are entirely dependent on the availability of suitable host anemones for habitat and protection – a loss of anemones results in a loss of anemonefish

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    Angelfish spotter, Brian Busteed surveys the waters around Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack, and home to the endemic Lord Howe Island phasmid (stick insect).

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    Amid a school of McCulloch’s anemonefish, researcher Jean-Paul Hobbs teaches island resident Dean Hiscox the methods for future surveys.

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    An eel pops its head up for a view in the waters of Lord Howe Island, where tropic waters meet temperate currents.

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    Coloured a little like a panda bear and just as rare, the Ballina angelfish has only been found at a handful of sites, including Balls Pyramid, where Brian ‘Busty’ Busteed spotted it in 1999.

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    Any recreational snorkeller or diver can have intimate moments with Lord Howe’s resident aquatic life, including southern silver drummers (pictured) and green turtles, thanks to the island’s small population of 350 and daily visitor limit of 400.

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    A mass of striped catfish herd themselves into a tight ball in the waters around Lord Howe Island, the World Heritage-listed marine area.

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    An aerial shot of Lord Howe Island, with the lagoon clearly visible. Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower (right) make for imposing features of the island, which is World Heritage listed.

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Gallery: Lord Howe Island

By AG STAFF | March 13, 2014

The dainty anemonefish of Lord Howe Island is becoming an early-warning system for rising temperatures.