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Book Review:

Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia

A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen


Rudie H. Kuiter

New Holland Publishers, Australia

1996, amended 1999, 434pp., U.S. $20-25

Bob Fenner  

With the continuing interest in travel, fishes and all things else "down under" it isn't surprising that such excellent guides as Rudie Kuiter's on the marine fishes of Australia have boomed in popularity (the work was reprinted twice in 2000). This title represents a daunting task. No fewer than 950 species are covered in this handy tome. As with other works by Mr. Kuiter, the 'Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia' is a terrific bargain; lavishly illustrated and much useful information for both fisherfolk, divers and pet-fish hobbyists. Indeed, most all the fishes one is likely to encounter around the entire circumference of Australia, and certainly every tropical fish of interest is described herein.

What Was/Is Great:

Image Work:

Rudie has been around… cameras, underwater, the world. As another adventure photographer/traveler I felt like shouting "Yay!" at time regarding the images here. There are many that point to endless hours underwater, and a keen interest at depicting something of the animal's behavior and environment. Anyone who has endeavored to make good pictures under the sea will tell you, this isn't easily done. Amazingly, all the photographs here were done by Rudie.

Just the Facts Maam:

Rudie offers the Australian common names for fishes in this work, unlike the worthy tome mentioned below (for example, the family Rhinobatidae are called Guitarfishes in the west, Shovelnose Rays here). Additionally maximum size from there, diets (from gut content analyses, many night/day, juvenile/adult, female/male comparison images are offered.

Distribution Maps:

Are clear and of great benefit to folks who are trying to exclude/include the fish they're trying to identify as being from or not the locality they've been in… Very interesting to find where similar/related species have "punctuated", dissimilar distributions.

Glossary and Structural Drawings:

A nice short glossary is included and definitive illustrations of the arcane terms used to define fish anatomy and measures. Items that earnest pet-fishionados ought to be familiar with the external morphology used in identifying fishes.


Cannot be discounted here. The excellent "bicep builder" coverage of Randall, Allen and Steene, "Fishes of the Coral Sea" is indeed bigger, better, more bent to the scientific mind… but sells for about four times as much retail. I bought my copy of the most recent edition of this "Guide" in Brisbane for the equivalent of twenty dollars U.S.

Possible Improvements:

Line Drawings for Family Index:

Would really like to have guides such as this provide line drawings along with their family listings (pp. vi-xvii)… It is very valuable/useful for the uninitiated to quickly identify fishes by their silhouettes.

A Large, National Map:

It's often hard for folks to grasp how other people not familiar with their country are unfamiliar with their homeland's largest towns, geographical landmarks… But most Americans don't know where Queensland, Perth, the Gold Coast, even where the Great Barrier Reef extends… a simple, but detailed large with major towns, areas, features on the books frontispiece, inside front cover would be very useful.


I have mixed feelings about separating indices into scientific and common names for the fishes as is done here… but no bibliography?! But for a page or two more, this Guide would have been of much more worth

Summing All This Up:

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