It didn’t take long to get a response after publishing my article titled “The Occurrence of Cowfish in West Lakes & the Port River” online.

The posting of the article on our website was immediately duplicated on our Facebook page. Almost immediately, Mike Bossley commented on Facebook: –

“I have had reports of cowfish in West Lakes also, including a photo of a dead Shaw’s from the area near the boat sheds. I have also seen Shaw’s out by Outer Harbor. A couple of times, I have seen two entwined on the surface, not sure if they were two males in territorial dispute or it was some kind of mating ritual. Could not see well enough to work out whether it was two males or a male and female.”

Quite coincidentally, a couple of days later, Tomi LaHolland posted this photo on Facebook: –


A male Ornate Cowfish in West Lakes

(Taken by Tomi LaHolland)

Along with her photo, Tomi commented, “Anyone able to identity this fish? Seen it in the lake across the road from Foodland on Bartley Tce (West Lakes).”

Monique Brooksby commented on Tomi’s post, saying “Male ornate cow fish. Caught these on my line a few times in the Northern Arm off Garden Island.”

Adrienne Etherington also commented, saying “Very pretty, maybe if more of the pretty sea fish get their way into the lake it would be a safe place to snorkel or scuba dive to look at them.”

I responded by saying, “That’s exactly what members of the Marine Life Society of SA have been doing, and are promoting, Adrienne.” Adrienne replied, “Ooo, do they dive there already?” “Yes,” I said, “a few MLSSA members have done dives or snorkels there this year. It can be murky though, esp. at depth.”

This drawing of a male Ornate Cowfish featured in our “MARIA Journal, Vol.1, No.5, September 1980: –


A male Ornate Cowfish

(Drawn by Josie Kau)


By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

2 thought on “More About Cowfish in West Lakes and the Port River”
  1. Steve,again just anecdotal not science but my impression over my 4 decades of SA diving is that the 2 prettiest of our locally occurring cowfish,Ornate and Shaw’s,are becoming more common(particularly the Ornate).
    Speculating as I often do,this could be via global warming since both species( * )have warm temperate distributions in Southern Australia.
    (*and to lesser degree our 3rd most attractive,the white-barred cowfish or boxfish,although I’ve never encountered that in West Lakes, and which seems to favour slightly higher energy coastal SA cw the first 2 ,which seem to prefer calmer areas in both our gulfs esp. upper gulf waters)
    Dave Muirhead

  2. Hey Steve, could you please encourage Tomi to add her sighting to iNaturalist? Cowfish aren’t yet represented in the West lakes project, so it would be a welcome addition.

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