South Taranaki Reef Life Project
Location of main site: The Project Reef location is: 11km offshore of Patea at a depth of 23m. The Project Reef is also a unique geological feature and likely related to Hauriri or Rakaupiko Marine Terraces which are aged at 60,000 and 80,000 years old. The substrate is incredibly hard and 2-3m in height - providing an important habitat for marine life.
Date started: December 2015
Purpose of group: Raise awareness of the offshore reef environment, inspire youth & community to engage in the science components of the Project, promote inter-generational learning between divers, students, fishermen, scientists, iwi and community and encourage stewardship of the marine environment through collecting baseline data and ongoing monitoring. Funding from MBIE Curious Minds, has been for the science challenge to explore: ‘What makes the sub-tidal reefs of South Taranaki unique?’
About the group: The Project has been successful at a regional and national level - winning the ‘Protecting our Coasts and Oceans’ category of the Green Ribbon Award on 8 June 2017, and also winning an environmental award in the ‘environmental action in the community’ category in 2016 from the Taranaki Regional Council. The Project has been fortunate to have had excellent exposure via the local newspaper media, the Wanganui Chronicle and the Taranaki Daily News. The local Aotea Utanganui - South Taranaki Museum has exhibited the Project over five months during 2016/2017. The Project has been extremely rewarding - with many speaking engagements to all sectors of the community - without fail the response has be en firstly of surprise and wonder at the diversity of life and colour to be seen at the Project Reef, but also a recognition of how limited their knowledge of the coastal seascape has been - especially in terms of further offshore.
The Project is run with the voluntary resources of the South Taranaki Underwater Club, with funding from the MBIE ‘Curious Minds’ initiative which funds marine scientists, charter vessels for High School student fishing surveys, and equipment such as the in-situ camera and microscopes.The team effort is also through the strong support of the Project Partners, Te Kaahui o Rauru and Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust, as well as the Hawera High School and Patea Area School.
Many lessons have been learnt along the way - continuous improvements to scientific methodology, and the equipment (such as the in-situ camera located at the reef) have occurred.
A hugely beneficial aspect of the Project has been collaborating with science experts from around NZ. The Project now works with Auckland University’s Dr Radford, an acoustic specialist, who has loaned a hydrophone for data capture at the Project Reef. The Project also seeks the occasional help from Andrew Stewart of TePapa to identify species of fish, including those recorded at night time with which Project members are less familiar. Contact was made with the NZ sponge specialist at NIWA, Dr Kelly, in an effort to identify and learn about the numerous species of sponges found at the Project Reef. The relationship has blossomed to the point where the Joint Project Lead, Bruce Boyd’, has contributed photographs which are included in Version 2 of the publicly available NIWA Sponge Guide. The Project team has also been asked to provide four samples of sponges which are likely unusual/new to science so that Dr Kelly can double check for spicules as they could be new species.
The software (Open Source ‘Quadrat’) has been readily adopted by students, for analysi ng the benthic survey photographs.
The South Taranaki Underwater Club have worked closely with the Taranaki Regional Council, DOC and Iwi, to have the Project Reef included in the Draft Coastal Plan, and categorised as ‘outstanding’. Project members were also able to contribute information on sub-tidal reef life, at a recent Hearing, with the Decision Making Committee for the EPA, as part of a recent EEZ marine permit application.
64 species have been uploaded into ‘NatureWatch NZ’ (a national database) with more species to be processed - see the Project, known as ‘Coastblitz Patea’ on NatureWatch.
The Project Reef provides habitat for a diverse range of fish species - 26 species recorded to date.
The reef has a number of deep ledges providing important habitat for extensive jewel anemone beds (up to 2m in length) as well as habitat for crayfish, crabs, eels and carpet sharks. Ecklonia radiata beds provide cover for juvenile fish and food and she lter for a range of invertebrate species, and there are mats of red algae. The reef has no kina barrens. Bryozoans and a number of species of hydroids have been documented on the Project Reef.
An important part of engagement has been the establishment of a Facebook page, with almost 900 followers and over 33,000 video views as at June 2017.
The Project would like to continue their research long term, in order to see seasonal and yearly variations occurring at the reef. As the divers, and Project team become more familiar with species, it is likely unusual species will ‘stand out more’ and the aim of the Project will be further achieved. The night time videos are hoped to shed light on some lesser seen species and their lifestyles.
Name of contact person: Karen Pratt
Email: (Project email).
Telephone number: 027-205-9673