Southern Coelacanths

On 22 November 2019 Wreckless Divers together with Mike and Alan Fraser discovered and filmed a live Coelacanth at the head of the Umzumbe canyon on the KZN south coast at a depth of 69m.  The dive team consisted of Mike and Alan Fraser from Pumula, KZN, and Bruce Henderson and Mossie Carstens from Somerset West in the Western Cape.  Ben Henderson and Marc Dukes were the surface support team.

Individual coelacanths can be identified by the unique pattern of white markings on their blue bodies.  Dr Kerry Sink of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) identified the fish observed, using photos and videos provided by Bruce Henderson, as a new individual and it has been allocated ACEP no. 34.

On 25 January 2021 Mike and Alan Fraser discovered a second coelacanth on a different reef some 38 km southwest of the first location.  This specimen was unfortunately not filmed.

A third coelacanth was observed by Mike and Alan Fraser and Bruce Henderson at the Umzumbe site on 24 February 2022.  This dive had to be aborted due to equipment problems and the fish was not filmed.  The dive team returned to the site the following day and found the coelacanth in the same location and on this occasion both Bruce and Mike were able to obtain excellent video footage of the fish.  This coelacanth has been allocated ACEP no. 35.

On 8 March 2022 Mike and Alan Fraser observed another coelacanth at the Umzumbe site and Mike obtained video footage and the fish has been allocated ACEP no. 36.

Coelacanth Discoveries

Discovering Coelacanth ACEP no 34 in the Umzumbe canyon at a depth of 69m on 22 November 2019.  (Video:  Bruce Henderson)

Coelacanth ACEP no. 35 observed at the head of the Umzumbe canyon in 68m of water on 25 February 2022.  (Video:  Bruce Henderson)

Discovering and approaching Coelacanth ACEP no. 35, 25 February 2022.  (Video:  Bruce Henderson)


SAJS VOL. 116 No. 3/4 (2020): Live coelacanth discovered off the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, South Africa.