Richard Robinson

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary

The proposed Kermadecs Ocean Sanctuary stretches over 620,000 square kilometres of sea, pocked with small rocky islands and riddled with underwater volcanoes and deep trenches. It supports life not found anywhere else in the world. Yet the sanctuary remains unratified; subject to a fisheries dispute currently before the courts and the rubber stamp of Parliament. What’s at stake?


Taking on water

New Zealand once led the world in marine protection. Now our underwater ecosystems are bottoming out. Why is stopping fishing so politically fraught? How might our ideas about marine protection need to change? And why, when our seas are in such desperate need, is it taking us so long to learn to talk to each other?

Short - Kermadecs

Video: Birdlife at the Kermadecs

The Kermadec Islands are a haven for seabirds, but it wasn't always this way. At the end of the 20th century, Raoul Island was practically devoid of birdlife. Seabird scientist Chris Gaskin reveals a remarkable story of recovery.

Living World

Submarine wonderland

A thousand kilometres north-east of the mainland, the Kermadec group basks in a subtropical environment and two decades of marine protection. Now, scientists are discovering an ecosystem unlike anything else in the country.

Living World

First stop on the humpback highway

The migration of Oceania’s humpback whales, and their final destination in Antarctica, has remained shrouded in mystery. This year, a team of scientists travelled north to intercept and track the whales travelling south. What they discovered only made the great migration more intriguing.

Sentinel, a hingebeak shrimp stands at attention on a Turbinaria coral at North Chanter Island in the Herald Islets—a small cluster of islands off the eastern shore of the main island of Raoul. The Kermadec Islands are distributed over two degrees of longitude and harbour tropical species such as these, more commonly seen on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as temperate water varieties common to the mainland.
Usually a metre long with conspicuous teeth—but sometimes attaining a length of two metres—the speckled moray is a fearsome-looking fish. It is also a highly effective predator, ambushing prey during the day from hidden lairs like this one, covered in coral polyps at Raoul Island, and hunting more widely at night. They’re equipped with large teeth, designed to tear flesh as opposed to holding or chewing, and a second set of jaws deep in their throat, also equipped with teeth, which are used to drag prey into the digestive system.
Striped boarfish put on a show at the largest of the Milne Islets. The group takes its name from its snout-like beak, though few species are as colourful or dramatically patterned as these. They are rare on the mainland and typically found in pairs or small groups at the Kermadecs. This aggregation of 38 individuals is a remarkable sight, and may be the same group recorded in this location by NIWA researcher Malcolm Francis two decades ago.
A purple gorgonian sea fan spreads its fingers to catch nutrients at Dayrell Island in the Herald Islands. Like all of the 500 species of its order the fan is actually a massive colony of gorgonian polyps, each with eight tentacles filtering plankton and particles from the prevailing currents. As the fan grows it reaches further from reef walls to maximize its food supply. Here, planktivorous mado fish—sometimes called “eastern footballers” in Australia, on account of the resemblance to the striated uniforms of Aussie Rules players—ply the same wall, a very different browser looking for bigger pieces of the same food.