In 2013, I worked on a shellfish boat in New Zealand. We used hydraulic systems to lift lines of shellfish out of the water, conveyor belts to sort them, and packaged mussels by the thousands in giant, half ton sacks. A far cry from the low-tech nighttime dredging from a longtail boat I saw in Thailand.
With this technological edge, surely New Zealand shellfish farmers are less vulnerable to ocean acidification than those in regions like Southeast Asia.
But that is not what I found. I found shellfish farmers in New Zealand to be highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. This wasn’t because the country lacked the technology or knowledge to be resilient, but because that technology and knowledge wasn’t making it into the hands of the shellfish farmers.
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Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton
These last two weeks, I have shared stories of how ocean acidification could affect economies around the world. These tangible impacts can be measured by changes in jobs, access to resources and overall economic condition. But what about the impacts you can’t measure? What will those changes be, and how will they affect people?
Throughout my Watson Fellowship, I sought to understand these intangible impacts. These hard-to-measure threats to things like one’s sense of place, identity and culture may not have dollar signs behind them, but to many of the people I spoke with, they were of utmost importance.
To explain this, I will share what I learned about the value of marine resources in New Zealand. There are two strong cultural lineages in New Zealand – the indigenous Maori community, and the descendants of Western settlers, who came primarily from England. Despite their distinct backgrounds, my conversations with both groups came to the same conclusion: the availability of seafood in New Zealand, particularly shellfish, is a matter of identity. If that seafood is gone, then the identity of the entire country suffers.
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Credit: Joshua Cripps
During Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Marine Life and Seascape Photo Contest, we received over 600 entries, showcasing everything from sea turtles to sharks to seashells. Though there were plenty of amazing photographs, only one could be our grand-prize winner.
Photographer Joshua Cripps shares with us the story behind his award-winning photo, “Motukiekie Galaxies”:
What’s the story behind this photo?
I took this photo at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand during a month-long photography expedition. It’s a remarkable beach full of tide pools, mirror-like sand, massive tidal swings and intriguing sea stacks and caves.
What made you take the photo?
I have a sometimes-dangerous habit of being too curious: “Hmm, what’s just over that cliff?” “Can I jump down into this canyon?” In this case I saw some tide pools right at the water’s edge and wanted to go investigate them, despite the fact that the water was rising quickly and I knew I’d probably get soaked by going out there.
But once I rock-hopped out to the tidal pools, I found hundreds of these 12-legged sea stars clinging to the rocks. That amazing sight, along with the beautiful sea stacks farther out to sea and the moody conditions at the time, left me with no question that I was going to take a photo.
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The distinctive-looking Hector's dolphins are New Zealand's only endemic cetacean. Credit: NOAA
All over the world, marine protected areas do exactly what they’re supposed to – a superior job of keeping sea creatures safe from harm. Good news, but what’s particularly exciting is a new study showing that marine protected areas improve survival for marine mammals.
For 21 years, ecologists in New Zealand studied a marine protected area near Christchurch. The area provides shelter for one of the rarest dolphin species in the world, Hector’s dolphins. These small dolphins boast distinctive black-and-white markings and an unusually rounded dorsal fins. They’re also notable for a sadder reason – once hunted as “bait”, often tangled in gillnets, currently threatened by pollution, the Hector’s dolphin population has dwindled to a fraction of what it once was.
But like the nickname “hope spots“ suggests, optimism for the species’ survival springs anew. Continue reading »