Ocean Currents » new zealand http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:12:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Science in the hands that need it: Turning the tide on ocean acidification in New Zealand http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/01/science-in-the-hands-that-need-it-turning-the-tide-on-ocean-acidification-in-new-zealand/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/01/science-in-the-hands-that-need-it-turning-the-tide-on-ocean-acidification-in-new-zealand/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:55:30 +0000 Alexis Valauri-Orton http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8906

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.

The oyster farmers I lived and worked with on Stewart Island told me how the oysters they grew hadn’t reproduced properly in two years.  Was this caused by ocean acidification?  There was no way to know really, because nobody was monitoring the chemistry of the local waters, and nobody had studied how this species might respond to ocean acidification.

I spoke with one of the pioneers of the green-lipped mussel farming industry in the Marlborough Sounds.  “Have people here been talking about ocean acidification?” I asked him. “No, not at all, not at all.”

Three weeks earlier, when I attended the New Zealand Workshop on ocean acidification, there had been a lot of talk.  But the discussions at the 2013 workshop didn’t focus on the concerns of the New Zealanders most vulnerable to ocean acidification.  Only a handful of the 50+ papers presented at the meeting were about shellfish species grown in New Zealand.  This isn’t to say the research presented at the workshop wasn’t scientifically relevant or important to understanding the mechanisms of ocean acidification on a global level, It absolutely was.  But it begged the question: when you have a current crisis like ocean acidification, shouldn’t we focus some science on answering the questions of the people and communities most at risk?

That’s the conclusion I came to.  And, I’m happy to say, New Zealand has come to that conclusion, too.  In December 2013, the United States Department of State, in collaboration with Global Ocean Health, the Marine Conservation Institute, the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries and other partners, sponsored a workshop called “Future proofing New Zealand’s shellfish aquaculture: monitoring and adaptation to ocean acidification.”

The workshop brought experts from the frontlines of the oyster crisis in the Pacific Northwest to New Zealand.  For the first time, scientists and industry members were in the same room, talking about ocean acidification together.

And they have kept talking.  Since the workshop, key industry partners have stepped up to sponsor a new monitoring network that will focus on important shellfish growing regions.  The 2014 New Zealand Ocean Acidification Workshop featured sessions on managing and monitoring ocean acidification.  Industry members, who, in early 2013, had voiced doubt over the impact of ocean acidification on the shellfish industry, were suddenly giving presentations on the threat of ocean acidification to their livelihood.  The organizers of the original, December 2013, workshop just released a beautiful video highlighting the value of shellfish to New Zealand, and the threats ocean acidification poses.

So what’s the key here?  What was the turning point? It’s simple, really.  It was bringing industry, science and policy together, and uniting them with a common goal: to understand how communities and industries might be affected by ocean acidification, and to do something about it.  It happened in New Zealand and Washington, it’s happening in Maine and Maryland, and it needs to be happening everywhere.

Mussel farms fill the waters of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. These fine-meshed nets are designed to catch wild spat, or mussel seed, in the Marlborough Sounds.  Mussel farmers I spoke with complained of an inconsistent supply of natural spat in recent years.  New monitoring programs in the Marlborough Sounds will allow us to see the chemical conditions of these crucial spat-collection areas. A family-owned mussel boat utilizes specialized ropes and hydraulic equipment. Though these technologies save sweat and increase production yields, they are hugely expensive, often requiring families to invest everything they have into their farm equipment. A woman collects data on bio-fouling on mussel lines in the Marlborough Sounds.  The coming years will likely see an influx in ocean acidification research in the Marlborough Sounds. Even small operations, like this oyster boat in Stewart Island, utilize expensive technology.  The owners of this boat have not seen natural reproduction in the oysters they work with in three years. ]]>
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The Thing You Can’t Measure: Ocean Acidification Threatens Culture and Identity in New Zealand http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/18/the-thing-you-cant-measure-ocean-acidification-threatens-culture-and-identity-in-new-zealand/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/18/the-thing-you-cant-measure-ocean-acidification-threatens-culture-and-identity-in-new-zealand/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:55:46 +0000 Alexis Valauri-Orton http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8764

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.

In the Maori language, the words for generosity and the courtyard of the meeting house are the same: marae. Waiaria Rameka, a shellfish biologist working in Tauranga, New Zealand, told me that each marae in New Zealand is known for a particular food item. This food item is a source of pride for each marae, and in a showing of generosity, it is always served for guests of the marae.

For many marae in New Zealand, this treasured food is a species of shellfish. These treasured species, are “not just a form of food [for Maori people], they’re who they are,” Waiaria told me. This references the concept of “mana,” a Maori term which Waiaria defined as “a person’s being, or energy.” This energy, she explained, comes not just from you, but from your ancestors before you. The strength of you or your tribe’s mana depends on the strength of your culture and traditions.

Waiaria told me how the availability of a marae’s treasured species affects their mana, saying, “If we can provide [that food] on the table, that means our mana as a people is upheld and preserved.  If we can’t provide [that food] then our mana is degraded.” Because the strength of your mana comes from the lineage before you, a breakdown of a long tradition like serving shellfish to visitors breaks an important link, and therefore poses significant harm to your mana.

For the descendants of Western settlers in New Zealand, shellfish and other types of seafood are also a matter of identity. Jim Barett, an oyster farmer from Stewart Island, New Zealand, told me of how his ancestors saw hope for a new life in New Zealand. In England, he explained, “Only the wealthy had access to resources.” And so when the settlers came to New Zealand, “they saw a land of plenty and allowed free access to it.” All beaches in New Zealand are public, and under their fisheries management programs, each citizen has a personal daily allotment of fish and shellfish. Keep in mind, the population of New Zealand is only 4.5 million, compared to 318 million in the United States. Their fisheries sector is strictly managed, and when you combine a well regulated fisheries sector with a small population size, there are abundant resources remaining for non-commercial use.

When I asked Jim what he wanted for his children and the next generation, he said, “I’d like [them] to be able to carry on doing what I did. To go and get a feed of shellfish or fish whenever they want.” He told me this was something all New Zealanders feel; “We feel we have a birth right, to be able to go down to the beach and catch a feed. It’s a very, very important part of our culture.”

His thoughts were echoed in nearly all conversations I had with New Zealanders. They all talked about this “right” to the resources of the sea, and the importance of preserving the abundance of those resources. At the Our Ocean Conference, I sat next to Shane Jones, New Zealand’s Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development, during lunch. I told him of how every New Zealander I spoke with talked about their right to catch a feed at the beach, and the need to protect fisheries and preserve that right. He chuckled and said, “That’s absolutely right.”

Though the fishing industry has a strong economic presence in New Zealand, the economy was never the focus of my conversations there. Each person, whether young or old, male or female, Maori or European, returned to the value of an abundant sea, and in particular an abundant source of shellfish. The value of this abundance was never told in dollars, but as a matter of identity.

New Zealand was not the only place I visited with an identity entwined with the sea, and shellfish in particular. The $3 bill of Aitutaki has a sea snail shell on the front, and one of the regional slogans of Thailand’s Surat Thani is “huge oysters.” Though the value of shellfish and other marine resources as a source of pride or identity may be hard to measure, I came to see that it was a critical part of the story of how ocean acidification will affect people.

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Starfish Galaxies: Joshua Cripps Shares the Story Behind His Award-Winning Photo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 18:00:02 +0000 Lauren Malkani http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6225 Motukiekie Galaxies

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.

Was it difficult to shoot?

Yes and no. Shooting in the tidal zone is always challenging. You run the risk of being splashed by waves (which isn’t particularly good for your equipment), slipping on wet rocks or having a sneaky wave take you out completely. And yes, all three have happened to me numerous times.

But those experiences have made me more careful and confident in my abilities while shooting the ocean. And thankfully, in this spot the waves were fairly small, especially after being broken up coming through the rocks. So in this case the only real difficulty in getting the shot was dealing with wet feet as the tide rose.

How did you feel being there and taking the photo?

Like I’d found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. From my prior scouting, I knew how much potential this beach had for good photography, but I didn’t know exactly what I’d find when I hopped out toward these particular rocks.

When I saw the hundreds of starfish clinging to the rocks, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Those sea stars—which, being from California, I found incredibly exotic—along with the stormy conditions of the day made me want to create as surreal and alien a photo as I could, so I used some long exposures to render the incoming waves as mist. And when the images on the back of my camera started to match my vision of the scene, it was an incredibly validating and rewarding feeling.

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Hector’s Dolphins Make Unlikely Comeback http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/26/hectors-dolphins-make-unlikely-comeback/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/26/hectors-dolphins-make-unlikely-comeback/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 15:03:04 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=242

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. The study results showed that since the marine protected area was designated, a significant shift has occurred: instead of continued decline, the Hector’s dolphin population has notably increased. Study author Dr. Liz Slooten noted, “This study provides the first empirical evidence that Marine Protected Areas are effective in protecting threatened marine mammals.”

This is a bright moment for dolphins, whales and pinnipeds everywhere. In California, for example, many of our new marine protected areas assure a place of refuge for not only fish, but for whales, dolphins, sea lions and seals. Some of the recently created ocean parks encompass feeding, resting and breeding grounds with the goal of reducing competition for food, disturbance (from noise and lights of fishing boats) and reducing entanglement risks in those key areas:

1. The Farallon Islands are most notorious for the great white sharks concentrated in nearby waters – but it’s the fact that the Farallons are home to the largest marine mammal colonies in the continental United States south of Alaska that brings the great whites to the area. Despite recognition from past presidents and the United Nations, only a small portion of the islands were actually protected.  Now, over 25 percent of the coastal waters off the Farallon Islands enjoy complete protection all year round.

2. A deepwater canyon within Monterey Bay provides a feeding ground for whales. Soquel Canyon has also historically served as place spot prawn trappers would drop their traps. This combination increased the risk of whales tangling in the trap lines – a risk diminished by the establishment of a marine protected area in the region.

3. South of San Francisco, Año Nuevo draws thousands of tourists keen to see the breeding elephant seals. About 2,000 pups are born in Año Nuevo each year – a vast improvement for a species hunted to near-extinction during the 1800s. To ensure their continued recovery, a marine protected area was sited near the elephant seals’ haulout location to reduce risk of entanglement and disturbance from fishing boats.


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