Land is owned, but the sea is shared. And we haven’t been sharing very well.
Mining the deep ocean is likely to begin in the next few years, as countries and companies look to exploit a previously untapped resource of cobalt and other minerals essential for technologies like smartphones, laptops, and electric car batteries. But scientists have raised concerns about the impacts deep-sea mining will have on ocean ecosystems. A recent study found that mining claims in the high seas already have significant overlap with important tuna fisheries—the skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna that many Pacific Island nations depend on. Mining produces toxins as well as large amounts of sediment that will have to be released into the water, reducing visibility and affectin
Have you ever found a cuttlefish bone washed up by the tide? You may also have seen one of the bleached, surfboard-shaped shells in a budgie’s cage, acting as a calcium supplement. These are actually neither bone nor shell, but function in a similar way, giving shape and buoyancy to cuttlefish. There are no cuttlefish in New Zealand waters, but their remains are washed here from Australia. So, which species were they? And what had killed them? Researchers at Te Papa Tongarewa set out to solve the mystery. They managed to extract DNA from the dorsal shield, the top layer of the cuttlebones, and discovered that those most commonly found belonged to the Australian giant cuttlefish, S
Tuna are the gold of the ocean—and, because certain species are so sought-after, they’ve become synonymous with overfishing and modern slavery. But in some areas, populations that were teetering on the edge of total wipe-out seem to be making a tentative comeback. Are things finally turning around for these fisheries?
Are there plenty more fish in the sea? Reports of falling hoki stocks off the West Coast and the near-disappearance of crayfish from the Hauraki Gulf suggest that our ‘best in the world’ fisheries management may not be living up to the hype. Three decades ago, the right to catch and sell fish became a property right, one that has now accumulated in the hands of a few. How has that worked out for people—and for fish?
Since human arrival, this landscape has undergone dramatic changes—mostly in the form of losses. Here’s how we can protect and nurture what remains.
Life is constantly in motion around the world, floating across oceans and colonising new shores, as frequently today as it did hundreds of millions of years ago. So what’s arriving along New Zealand’s coastlines?
“The sea has all our dreams,” writes Keri Hulme. For some, those dreams are of strange and wonderful creatures, such as you might find 70 metres below the surface at the Poor Knights Islands. For others, the dreams are of the ocean’s untapped riches: minerals, fossil fuels, sea creatures, energy. Which dreams will prevail in 21st-century Aotearoa?
Laly Haddon and daughter Olivia grew up on the pearly sands of their turangawaewae at Pakiri, and have witnessed radical change.
Pioneer diver and lifelong environmentalist Wade Doak laments the loss of the hāpuku, our behemoth groper that was once common even in shallow water in the Hauraki Gulf.
Rolling a fresh cigarette, Bill Ballantine gives a sardonic laugh as he recalls the headline in the local newspaper when New Zealand’s first marine reserve was opened in 1977—“Nothing to do at Goat Island Bay any more.” He had fought for 12 years to protect five square kilometres of marine habitat on the Northland coast. That protection was finally in place. To Ballantine it was the start of a new era. To the newspaper, voicing community opposition, it was the end of one.
Sue Neureuter grew up visiting the Noises Islands which have been in her family since the 1930s. Having witnessed the decline in marine life and seabirds in the Hauraki Gulf first-hand she recalls her parents' stories in this personal and vivid account.
Seabird scientists are creating a fake home for shags on the Noises, an island group off the coast of Auckland, in the hope that the Hauraki Gulf’s rapidly diminishing spotted shag population will be fooled into thinking it’s a great place to start a family.
Swept by the cold seas of the Southern Ocean, New Zealand’s outposts of the Bounty and Antipodes Islands are awash with life.
New Zealanders have become accustomed to sea freight slipping silently in and out of the country’s ports without incident. But on October 5, that impression of well-oiled efficiency foundered on Astrolabe Reef, and our coastlines suddenly seemed acutely exposed. What went wrong?
Pioneer divers Keith and Ailsa Lewis reflect on a lifetime of exploration in the Hauraki Gulf, the abundance of crayfish and their hopes for the future.
The once abundant Hauraki Gulf is on the brink of collapse, and while science is clear on how to repair it, many are putting rights before responsibilities. Here’s what needs to happen.
Ecologist Robert Richmond has been studying reef systems for a lifetime. What has he discovered?
Experience the Hauraki Gulf in VR on your home computer or phone...
Revelations about widespread illegal fishing highlight another failure of free-market policy to protect our environment and common assets.
Experience what most of the inner gulf looks like—a relatively modified environment with poor weed coverage and little fish life.
Barely seven per cent of New Zealand is land. The rest of it, the wet bit, covers four million square kilometres. In 2016, photographer Richard Robinson won a Canon Personal Project Grant that enabled a dozen expeditions into this vast marine prairie, arguably the country’s last great tract of undisturbed wilderness.
The world has lost a great advocate for the marine environment. On Sunday, Bill Ballantine, recognised as the father of marine reserves in this country and a pioneer in global marine conservation, passed away, aged 78.
With the gods Poseidon and Tangaroa in mind, Wallace Chapman talks with marine scientists Dr Rochelle Constantine and Dr Tom Trnski, the musician Don McGlashan and the CEO of Sustainable Coastlines Sam Judd about the oceans which surround us. Among the many issues they traverse is the complex one of how we protect our marine reserves while still sustaining a fishing industry.
The ocean is our playground, storehouse, transport corridor, driver of weather and coastal change. We’ve learned the hard way that it’s possible for us to exhaust its resources and overwhelm its natural processes. Now, scientists are mapping the web of relationships between the sea, the land and human industry, to figure out how fishing, aquaculture, tourism, land development, and recreation affect its health. What should be permitted, and what prohibited—and where? How can we best strike a balance between using and protecting our seas?
The Biblical tale of three magi with gifts has an ecological equivalent at the Three Kings Islands, 53 kilometres north of the New Zealand mainland. There, swept by the cool waters of the Tasman Sea, life springs in profusion. This year, five agencies voyaged to the islands to explore this unfathomable biological wealth.
A thousand kilometres north-east of the mainland, the Kermadec group basks in a subtropical environment and two decades of marine protection. In May this year, scientists scoured this untouched world to catalogue, collect and expand the list of species found there, and discovered an ecosystem unlike anything else in the country.
Why did hundreds of dead kororā—little blue penguins—wash up on beaches around the country two summers ago? Has their fate got anything to do with the weather? Or has it got something to do with us?
The distant and remote Minerva Reefs—the closest coral atolls to New Zealand—have been the subject of political intrigue, a failed libertarian state and a naval showdown. Scientists believe they may also be the origin of some tropical species reaching New Zealand’s northern waters.
An ecosystem out of balance is a desert of monotony. Here at Nordic Reef, snapper and crayfish stocks have been depleted by overfishing, allowing the population kina population to explode and devour all the kelp, sponges and algae.
Marine geologist Cornel de Ronde is filling in the blanks on the map of New Zealand’s submerged territory—and investigating the wealth it may contain.
New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands is considered one of the world’s top dive sites and for good reason, with a rich collection of extraordinary characters and bizarre behaviors, including a unique congregation of stingrays and sex-changing Sandagers Wrasse.
Built for acceleration and power, the shortfin mako is the fastest shark in the world and an icon of New Zealand seas. Although heavily fished for decades by commercial longliners, mako populations are beginning to recover, and prospects look good for this oceanic speedster.
The chemistry of seawater is changing, becoming more acidic, and this transformation is most profound along our coastlines. In this delicate borderland between land and sea, some places are experiencing a surge in acidity, peaking at levels that the open ocean isn’t predicted to reach until the end of this century. What does this mean for marine life?
Dr Rochelle Constantine recently led an expedition to the Kermadec region to study ocean biodiversity from the deep sea to the surface.
Rachel Constantine is a senior lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, where she focuses her work on the study of cetaceans.
Like New Zealanders, penguins occupy the margin of land and sea, being dependent on both habitats, and vulnerable to changes in either as well. Their fate is wedded to our coasts, and as scientists have begun to understand, they are a perfect indicator of the health of this fragile boundary too. What can penguins tell us about our seas and shores?
Where marine life is protected, it blooms. Northern Arch at the Poor Knights is like a busy city street, attracting swarms of fish and stingrays.
Snapper congregate in the shallows of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve at an abundance and maturity that may closely reflect the original snapper populations of the Hauraki Gulf. There are three to four times the number of snapper inside the reserve as outside and up to ten times the number of crayfish.
The Kermadec Islands are a staging post for humpback whales heading from the tropics to feeding grounds in Antarctica that remain unknown. Scientists attempted to intercept them, track them, and discover where they go. Rochelle Constantine, director of the Marine Mammal Ecology Group at the University of Auckland describes how to shoot a whale for science.
Alone in the Pacific, halfway to Tonga, sit the Kermadec Islands. This remote archipelago is New Zealand’s northernmost frontier and our toehold on the tropics. Everything that lives on and around these young islands has travelled far to be here and a unique mix of creatures thrive in its warm waters. As a marine community the Kermadec is unrivalled in New Zealand waters.
The underwater habitat at the Kermadecs is unique in the world, supporting fish life not seen anywhere else, and sharks in abundance. Auckland Museum's Head of Natural Sciences, Tom Trnski, tells us why.
The creatures of New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve are safe from humans, but that doesn’t mean life is easy. They are under constant attack from marauding dolphins, diving cormorants, and the sharks and the marlin that live beyond the boundaries of the reserve.
A former editor recalls how he was smitten by deceptively simple creatures.
Below the thrashing surface, the depths of our oceans are a wonderland of creatures designed to a very different pattern from anything found on land. In the spirit of the first explorers, French curator Claire Nouvian embarked on an expedition to collect underwater anomalies from our own backyard and exhibit them in the halls of Europe.
The world’s smallest, rarest dolphin lives in New Zealand. After the expansion of gill-netting in 1970, the population and range of Hector’s dolphin diminished rapidly. One extremely isolated subspecies, Māui dolphin, now numbers barely 100 individuals. Yet science has revealed that the species may yet recover, even from the brink of oblivion.
Little Blue Penguins run the gauntlet to escape Great White Sharks – but they’re not the only species flirting with death on New Zealand’s famous Stewart Island.
A glassy sea, an open sky, fish on the bite. An alluring image, but often far from the day-to-day reality faced by small-scale coastal fishermen, who must compete for fewer fish while trying to stay on the right side of increasingly complex government rules. One of the few unregulated fisheries left is tuna, which attracts scores of fishermen to the West Coast each summer to try their luck with line and lure.
French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau rated the Poor Knights Islands off Northland’s east coast as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world. Twenty-five years after they were gazetted a marine reserve, they remain as magnificent as ever, a place of rare undersea richness where exciting biological discoveries continue to be made.