Banded Wobbegong, Gulf Wobbegong.
A large species of wobbegong with four groups of dermal lobes (skin flaps) below and in front of eyes on each side of head; no dermal lobes on chin; nasal barbel closest to mouth branched; five to six lobes in second preorbital group (rarely four) with lobes at extremities usually longer and branched; broad branched postspiracular groups.
Two equally sized, large dorsal fins. First dorsal origin anterior to pelvic fin insertion. Relatively broad caudal fin with a deep subterminal notch and long terminal margin.
No warty tubercles on head or body. Body covered in an intricate pattern dominated by nine dark irregular saddles edged with black lines followed by grayish coloration. Light brown and gray freckle-like blotches between saddles.
Previously thought to be the adult form of the Ornate Wobbegong (O.ornatus).
Maximum verified length 206cm. Possibly up to 290cm. Size at birth approximately 25-30cm.
Temperate and subtropical seas. Found on rocky and coral reefs and slopes adjacent to reefs and drop-offs. Inshore bays and around offshore islands, down to approximately 195m.
The banded wobbegong is found from Moreton Bay (and possibly Hervey Bay) in Queensland, around the south coast of Australia including Tasmania, to Norwegian Bay in Western Australia.
The banded wobbegong is a biologically sensitive species, site-attached within its relatively shallow water range (0–195 m depth), and caught in commercial and recreational fisheries as a target species and as bycatch. In New South Wales (NSW), wobbegong (unspecified species) catch combining all fishing methods and fisheries declined by more than 50% between 1997-1998 and 2007-08, after which it stabilized to around 20 tonnes. This led to all three species of wobbegong occurring in NSW, including the Banded Wobbegong, to be regionally listed as Vulnerable. However, fishing effort reported as the number of days fished also declined between 1990-91 and 2008-09, resulting in the catch rate being relatively constant around 15 kg per fishing days from 1990-91 until 2009. Fishing effort and ensuing catch rate should, however, be used with caution because it is coarsely reported as the number of days fished and does not account for the number of hooks used or soak times. Since September 2006, wobbegongs have been included in the daily trip limit for a specific list of shark species to one tonne for a 24 hour period and two tonnes for 48 hours or greater. New management regulations in May 2008 introduced a daily limit of six wobbegongs. A minimum size limit of 180 cm total length for the Banded Wobbegong implemented between 2008 and 2013 protected juveniles. Although the minimum size limit is no longer applicable, wobbegongs are no longer targeted to the same extent as they used to because of the trip limit implemented in 2008. In addition, further investigation of the NSW fishing catches and effort revealed that catch per unit effort did not decrease as thought in the previous assessment. Wobbegongs are not targeted and catches are low in other Australian states (Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria). As a result, there is no evidence to infer or suspect population decline of the Banded Wobbegong, and current catches are relatively low, resulting in a listing of Least Concern.
Citations and References
Huveneers, C., Pollard, D.A., Gordon, I., Flaherty, A.A. & Pogonoski, J. 2015. Orectolobus halei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T161709A68638176. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T161709A68638176.en. Downloaded on 01 January 2021.
Ovoviparous and lecithotrophic, i.e. the foetus is solely nourished by the yolk within the egg case.
Feeds on small bony fishes and elasmobranchs. An ambush predator that remains motionless while camouflaged against the reef. When an appropriately sized fish swims in front of its disguised mouth, the wobbegong lunges forward simultaneously stretching its mouth open. The process sucks water and fish into its mouth, which immediately snaps shut again, trapping its prey with needle-like teeth.
Nocturnal. Rests by day under reef ledges or in caves. Relocates at night when hunting but often returns at dawn to the same resting spot.
Reaction to divers
Very easy to approach. Remains at rest, relying on camouflage unless harassed.
CAUTION: The banded wobbegong has been reported to have bitten divers that got too close to its mouth even when not disturbed.
The Banded Wobbegong is a commonly encountered species, especially in New South Wales. One particularly good spot with an abundant population of O. halei (and numerous other elasmobranchs) is at Fish Rock near the town of Southwest Rocks.
Further north, Byron Bay is also an excellent spot to encounter this species.
Cobbler Wobbegong has large tubercles on both the head and body that are not present in any other members of the family Orectolobidae.
Spotted Wobbegong Distinguished by less intricate markings of dark grey/brown saddles on a yellow/tan background and large white ringed irregular spots.
Western Wobbegong Distinguished by slender unbranched post-spiracular dermal lobes, and a yellowish brown coloration with well-defined, darker brown saddles containing paler markings that lack whitish rings and blotches.
Floral Banded Wobbegong Distinguished by predominantly dark brown coloration with clusters of white spots that form flower-like patterns.