New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

Native New Zealand Freshwater Fish

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Delve a little deeper into New Zealand’s waterways and discover some of the amazing species of fish that occupy them with this illustrative stamp issue.

Issue information

More than 40 different species of freshwater fish have been identified in New Zealand’s waterways. Around three-quarters of these secretive and largely nocturnal natives are already endangered, which is a troublingly high number compared to other countries. Some of the issues our freshwater fish face include barriers in migration, destruction of habitat and the introduction of predators such as trout.

Many of New Zealand’s freshwater fish species have had to evolve unique attributes in order to live in our varied habitats. The lowland longjaw galaxias is so named for its distinctive upturned lower jaw, the redfin bully has taught itself to climb, the longfin eel can live for up to 100 years, the lamprey is commonly known as a “vampire parasite” and the torrentfish has a unique zebra-style camouflage.

From deep ice-cold lakes to fast moving raging rapids, the vast range of species found in New Zealand’s waterways were celebrated with these beautifully illustrated stamps. The diversity of New Zealand’s aquatic life is clearly apparent when these stamps were viewed side by side.

Miniature Sheet and First Day Covers

The stamps were available together in a uniquely shaped miniature sheet that depicted these precious fish swimming in freshwater. There were two first day covers available as part of this issue - one with the five stamps affixed and one with the miniature sheet affixed. The first day cover featuring the stamps contained further scientific illustrations of the five species.

Presentation Pack

The presentation pack gave further detail on each fish as well as expanding on the bautiful illustrations of the fish and their habitats. A stunning collector's item, the presentation pack delved deep into the story behind each fish species describing their unique attributes, the threats that face them and what we can do to protect our native freshwater fish. The presentation pack was written by Sophie Allen, a freshwater ecologist with Working Waters Trust. This charitable trust was established for the protection of our native freshwater fish and waterways. Inside the presentation pack was the five gummed stamps, the first day cover and the miniature sheet.

Freshwater Fish Limited Edition

The limited edition was the ultimate collectors item for this issue. You could learn more with the booklet containing the plate blocks, which had been written by Stella McQueen, a freshwater fish specialist, science communicator and author of The New Zealand Native Freshwater Aquarium and A Photographic Guide to Freshwater Fishes of New Zealand. There was a unique numbered imperforate miniature sheet and a limited edition first day cover signed by Stella McQueen. As an added bonus this pack contained colour separations of the $3.30 stamp and the fish on each stamp had a special gloss coating.

Product Listing for Native New Zealand Freshwater Fish

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Lowland Longjaw Galaxias' gummed stamp.

With its thin, elongated body and small fins, the glittery lowland longjaw is one of the ‘pencil’ galaxias. This shape allows them to burrow into the gravel to lay eggs, feed and to survive during flooding or low flows. They are named after their distinctive upturned lower jaw. Found only in the Kauru and Kakanui Rivers, and a handful of streams in the upper Waitaki catchment, this species is thought to have less than 250 mature adults, making it one of our rarest native fish species.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Redfin bully, Toitoi' gummed stamp.

Bring on the colour circus! The redfin bully male has flashy red markings on his tail and fins compared to the duller brown female. He dutifully guards their eggs until they hatch, temporarily turning black for this role. You can spot a redfin bully by the diagonal strips on the cheeks, similar to war paint. The redfin tends to live close to the coast in stony streams and these acrobatic climbers can be found above waterfalls. The young larvae of the species wash out to sea and return to freshwater as juveniles.

Single Stamp

Single $2.20 'Longfin eel, Tuna' gummed stamp.

This familiar favourite is only found in New Zealand, can live for over 100 years and grow into legendary two-metre giants. Sadly, eels of this size are becoming rarer, as concerns grow over the effects of commercial fishing, habitat destruction and damming. Tuna is of utmost significance to Māori, and traditionally was an important food source. Found widespread around New Zealand, the young elvers are phenomenal climbers of waterfalls. The longfin must complete an epic migration to Tongan waters to breed right at the end of their life.

Single Stamp

Single $2.70 'Lamprey, Kanakana, Piharau' gummed stamp.

The lamprey is a primitive jawless fish, sometimes mistaken for an eel. It has a round mouth with rasping teeth and seven gill pores among other distinctive features. Lamprey adults spend their lives at sea as ‘vampire parasites’ on other fish, then migrate to freshwater to breed. In freshwater, they change from a metallic blue to a dull brown, and the male develops a bizarre baggy pouch under the eyes. The species is found around the Southern Hemisphere.

Single Stamp

Single $3.30 'Torrentfish, Panoko' gummed stamp.

This riffle-surfer has adapted to fast-flowing water. In fast flows its strong pectoral fins anchor it to the riverbed and prevent it from washing away! The zebra-like camouflage colourings and its tendency to freeze when threatened make this a hard fish to spot. It moves into slower flows at night to feed. The torrentfish is endemic to New Zealand and typically widespread throughout. It resembles its more familiar marine relative, the blue cod.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled miniature sheet. $11.00
First Day Cover First day cover with five gummed stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $11.50
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with gummed miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $11.50
Presentation Pack

Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps.

Still available to purchase. Click here.

Limited Edition

Limited edition collectable containing exclusive stamp products not available anywhere else.

Still available to purchase. Click here.


Technical information

Date of issue: 1 March 2017
Number of stamps: Five gummed stamps
Denominations: $1.00, $1.80, $2.20, $2.70, $3.30
Stamps, miniature sheet and first day covers designed by: Stephen Fuller, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 50mm x 25mm (horizontal)
Paper type: Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 14.4 x 14
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 28 February 2018. First day covers remained on sale until 30 April 2017.