A blueprint for saving our seas
An outline of goals for the Seafriends Foundation and Society
(please note that this document has become obsolete, overtaken by events and progress (2009))

This working paper serves to outline Seafriends' plans for saving our seas. Not only does it contain simple steps for making the Seafriends organisation work, but it also contains ambitious plans that may take a lifetime to realise. I have confidence that many conscientious people will join this organisation and give it their best. It will not be a matter of cost and how much it will benefit ourselves but rather what kind of world we wish to leave for our children. It is my belief and conviction that we can and should make a difference. Time is running out but we can enjoy the progress we make during our lifetime. Our country can become the envy of the rest of the world, if only we want it to be!

As this blueprint shows, an enormous amount of work needs to be done by many people. The Seafriends organisation is necessary and indispensable to bring people, bureaucracies and business together to pursue the shared goal of saving our seas and to debate the issues thoroughly.

Although informed debate is critically important, the Seafriends philosophy requires also doing something, to make a start, rather than just talk. We are not interested in telling people in other countries what they should do but we will turn words and ideas into action to save our own seas.

Many of the statements and observations in this paper are of cutting edge and scientists could easily be tempted to comment that they 'have not been proved'. I hope that knowledgeable people can instead, provide evidence and proof in favour or against or point us in the right direction.

Dr Floor Anthoni, Leigh, 15 May 1997
Revised: 20020710,20091121,


Introduction and Summary


Seafriends: three entities, three purposes, one goal
The Seafriends Education Centre in Leigh
Taking the Seafriends concept to Auckland
Informed debate
Seafriends Journal
Photographic Library


Conservation Monitoring Research Pollution Control   home -- content - revised:19990220

Introduction and Summary

Located in the South Pacific and surrounded by an immense ocean, New Zealand is unique in many ways. With its population of a mere 4 million people, it is located far away from the problems surrounding population centres in the northern hemisphere. We like to think of our country as a 'green and clean' country with a better chance to stay that way than any other.


However, since the early eighties, our coastal seas have developed problems. Shellfish fisheries such as for oyster, scallop and mussel are closed frequently due to toxic algal blooms. Our coastal waters are becoming dirtier and many species are disappearing from many places. Our fertile lands are washing into the sea at an alarming and increasing rate and it won't take long before there's little left to pass on to posterity.

In 1990 the idea of the Seafriends movement to save our seas was born. From entirely private and inadequate funds the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre was built in Leigh inside a disused woolshed. It opened in January 1993. The centre would demonstrate that it could survive on a commercial basis and pay its way. Although 'saving our seas' looked like an almost impossible task, the centre showed that this task could be started, a small step at a time.

This blueprint for saving our seas was compiled when we created the Seafriends Foundation and the Seafriends Society, a structure necessary to bring all sectors of the community together to solve the immense problems before us. The Blueprint shows all those who are going to join this movement, where we are heading to and that no problem is too big not to be tackled. If it looks like a lot of work, consider for a moment that the Seafriends movement is ten to twenty years too late so there's a lot more work to be done in order to whittle away that backlog.

Chapter 1 sets out how the Seafriends organisation is structured to meet the needs of a country-wide volunteer group.

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to what needs to be done on marine education. Education is one of the most important aspects of our activities. Education is necessary on all levels, to introduce new ideas, to raise discussion, to provide awareness and to canvass support. Many of the projects suggested in this report require a great deal of education.

Chapter 3 gives a new approach to marine conservation. Our existing marine reserves have many shortcomings that could have been avoided. By studying these and moving in a different direction, existing, proposed and new marine reserves could be improved considerably.

Chapter 4 sets out how a network of monitoring stations can be serviced by volunteers and what enormous benefits can be reaped. Indispensable for assessing liability after an oil spill, the network will also provide long-term trends, early warnings and a measure of progress.

Chapter 5 suggests that our research dollar can be spent in a better way. NZ needs to spend more on researching its huge ocean potential. Environmental studies need to be more concerned with the workings of aquatic ecosystems. An emergency research fund should be created to allow scientists and volunteers to respond to sudden environmental events such as cyclones, sea temperature changes, sudden fish deaths and so on.

Chapter 6 defines the most critical threats to our seas and what to do about them. It suggests short and long-term solutions that challenge our values and ways of thinking. It is likely to take many years before measurable progress can be made in this field.

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Seafriends: three entities, three purposes, one goal

The Seafriends organisation consists of three entities, the not for profit foundation, the society and the corporation. It aims to bring together all sectors of the community and the public. In this manner, everyone has a job and the work gets done. The main sectors of our society relating to the sea are politicians, governmental departments (DoC, MAF), research establishments (NIWA, Universities), educational institutes, marine professions, marine recreation, business people and the general public.


The Seafriends Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with the following purposes:

  • to provide an appropriate vehicle to seek public and private funds and to attract sponsors
  • to manage these funds and assets in an accountable manner
  • to make to develop strategies and policy
  • to open a vision for the future
  • to oversee the activities of the entire Seafriends organisation
  • The Seafriends Society is an incorporated society with a steering committee and paid membership. The society's purposes are:
  • to provide a forum to 'network' members
  • to provide information, facts and data to members and the general public
  • to foster informed debate
  • to make and execute plans
  • to train, educate and engage members and the public
  • to keep members and the public informed on a regular basis
  • The structure of the society allows for regional chapters and a national committee.

    The Seafriends Corporation is a not-for-profit company that adds business skills to the organisation. The corporation’s sole shareholder is the Foundation. The Corporation’s purposes are:

    The Seafriends organisation is designed to operate at maximum efficiency with minimum overheads, using modern communication methods wherever possible. Most members donate time as a contribution to a better marine environment and future.
    The Seafriends Education Centre in Leigh

    The Seafriends Marine Education Centre in Leigh (about 90km north of Auckland in New Zealand) has been operating since January 1993. It has achieved the following:

  • A marine aquarium consisting of eight tanks of 400 litres each. Each tank represents a different marine habitat: the mangrove/mudflats, the tidal sandflats, the deep estuary, the sheltered reef, the exposed reef, the deep reef, the junkyard and the shelltrap. The aquariums are unique in that they form an almost closed ecosystem, in which the salt water has no connection with the sea. For purification and oxygenation the water is circulated and treated by bacteria. Because of the eight habitat compartments, over 140 different creatures can be maintained in this environment. Among the more remarkable species are plankton feeders such as bivalves, sponges and seasquirts. The aquariums provide an ideal environment for education about adaptation, habitats, ecosystems, human influence and more.

  • A 1000 book marine library which covers one wall of the restaurant/classroom and which is easily accessible. The library contains many categories, including biology, geology, ecology, discovery, diving, boating and more. The library has been used extensively for making school resource kits and lectures. A small annual budget keeps it growing.

  • Starting with only two complete dive sets, the centre now has over 200 full wetsuits and over 100 masks and sets of fins. At any time it can put a class of up to 40 people in the water, ranging from Standard 3 (9 years) to Form 7 (17 years) and adults. One of the most gratifying experiences is to snorkel the Goat Island marine reserve with the entire family. Seafriends' dive hire enables people to do so at affordable rates. Schools enjoy substantial discounts.

  • The SCUBA diver can fill his tanks here, hire full dive sets and book a boat trip or a guided trip from the shore.

  • A restaurant for lunches and dinners, BYO and fully licensed. It draws people in and gives them a good reason to visit the centre. Once seated, they can study the annotated underwater photographs and under water photographic essays, visit the live aquariums or study a book from the library.

  • The restaurant is very busy in the school holidays and weekends but is otherwise used as a classroom, seating up to 70. It has a 1.8m pull-down screen and video projector, slide and overhead projector.

  • Primary and intermediate schools typically come for an entire day with up to 140 children. These are rotated between activities taking two hours each:

  • Snorkel instruction: in a mere twenty minutes, children, teachers and parents are familiarised with mask, snorkel and fins and how to use them. They are then given a fitting wetsuit which has been allocated using body measurements provided by the school. Once everything has been checked, the class is guided into the sea. Instructors have been trained in overcoming typical problems and in providing a safe swim.
  • A shore study introduces the class to various aspects of the sea. Its content changes depending on weather and tide. At the very low tide, children are shown how many creatures overcome the difficulty of living intertidally. At high tides, the driftline provides for interesting studies.
  • The group at Seafriends is usually lectured first for over an hour, and then split into two. In the aquarium room an instructor guides the group from tank to tank, telling important and interesting facts about each. The other group watches one or more instructional videos about underwater discovery and snorkelling.
  • For college students from Form 3 to 7, more challenging activities are found:
  • Collecting, classifying and identifying shells, complete with lectures.
  • Challenging lectures about marine conservation, fish identification, fishing/exploitation, resource management, evolution/adaptation, global warming, El Nino weather, problem solving and so on.
  • Movies about our underwater environments.
  • Resource material for the school curriculum is still in development, but the natural resources in the neighbourhood have been developed further for education.
    Taking the Seafriends concept to Auckland

    Seafriends' Leigh education centre has proved that a strong need for a marine educational centre in Auckland exists. At the moment there is Kelly Tarlton's aquarium, which focuses on the spectacular but which is not specifically designed for education. There is also the MERC Marine Education and Recreation Centre in Long Bay which trains people in boating and mariner's skills.

    The Seafriends concept, particularly its aquariums, lectures and displays, could be placed practically anywhere in Auckland because of its closed-circulation aquariums. It does not need an expensive waterfront site and neither does it need to be connected to the sea. It could be built on an affordable industrial site with good parking and access to bus routes. Close access to a beach and/or estuary is preferable to do guided beach studies but is not necessarily a prerequisite.

    A centre in Auckland would primarily be intended for organised school visits. Pupils would typically visit the centre several times in their school years co-inciding with the subjects they are studying. In the weekends, evenings and on holidays the centre would be open to the public. Trained instructors would always guide groups.

    The centres would provide for the following facilities:

  • Aquariums, beginning with 8 marine habitats, 16000 litres in three circulatory systems and room for two more.
  • Two freshwater habitats
  • Display areas for shells and dried/conserved specimens: a museum arranged in themes.
  • An auditorium, equipped with projection equipment, to seat 100 people.
  • A marine library from which schools can hire, including videos and 'marine treasure chests'.
  • A 'laboratory' with small tanks for children's marine studies. This laboratory of experiments will be viewable by, although not accessible to the public.
  • A reception area that can be used for multiple purposes.
  • Public toilets, office, staffroom, workshop.
  • One or two buses to pick classes up from school and to bring them back again. Some staff would be required to hold the appropriate licences.

    Informed debate

    Steering a country's future is very much like steering a ship: a course is set and maintained by comparing it with the compass. If the compass is flawed, steering the ship becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. If the compass is faulty and one knows it is, the ship can still be steered by other means but if one does not know, the ship will run aground. Likewise if essential information becomes corrupted, one cannot steer the country towards a prosperous future.

    Unfortunately for the sake of political expedience, the truth is very often misrepresented. After a period of propaganda, it then becomes almost impossible to sell. The nation is cast adrift. Seafriends will vehemently uphold the most important resource of all, the truth. For the truth to emerge it is important to encourage and facilitate informed debate. Seafriends will actively take part:

    Seafriends Journal

    Every organisation needs a magazine to communicate to its members and to the world outside. Few non-scientific magazines dealing with nature and the sea exist in NZ: New Zealand Geographic (6x), Forest and Bird (4x), NIWA's Water and Atmosphere (4x).

    All three magazines aim for very high quality print and are very expensive to produce. We believe that a niche exists for a monthly magazine produced in A4 size and with a more economical makeup. It would cover the following material:

  • News items from NZ and overseas
  • Coverage of own projects and progress
  • Discussion forum for new ideas
  • Photographic and informative essays
  • Feature articles on environments, habitats, species and more.
  • Techniques for scientific research under water.
  • Coverage of university studies, master's theses and doctoral theses
  • A school-orientated section



    Subscribers to the SF Journal would be found among:

  • Seafriends members
  • Forest and Bird members and other 'green' organisations
  • The boating and amateur fishing community
  • The professional fishing community
  • Secondary schools, tertiary education, libraries
  • Policy makers and leaders of society

    Photographic Library

    In the past thirty years many underwater photographers have taken pictures of the sea. Although some have been successful in publishing their photographs, most have not. A wealth of unique photographs lies hidden in private archives. These may reveal what was common at the time and what has disappeared since. This work, which is also part of our inheritance and our emergence from a pioneering origin, must be saved for posterity. Seafriends aims to achieve this in the following ways:

  • By systematically visiting past and present underwater photographers and evaluating their work.

  • By encouraging photographers to submit pictures to the Seafriends Photographic Library which is held on computer and which is accessible via the Internet. Photographs, both negatives and slides are scanned in high resolution and originals returned to the owner. The library’s cost structure is chosen such that pictures can be submitted at little cost to the author. Scanning, storage and handling costs will be recovered from sales.

  • Photographs held in the Library are viewable as 'thumbnails' and as low-resolution full-screen pictures and can be purchased at high resolution for a standard fee. The author shares in the profit.

  • Photographers are encouraged to submit biologically or environmentally significant photographs for inclusion in the Seafriends web site. These are freely available at low resolution for use by schools and amateur clubs.

  • From time to time a publication will be devoted to selected underwater photographers to highlight their work and to save it for posterity. Copies will be made available to the National Library of New Zealand.

  • By making underwater photographs available to others, complete with narratives, we hope that professional and amateur writers will use them to publish stories in all kinds of magazines and in all possible countries.

  • Photos and text may find a use in making children's stories.

  • By making annual awards available for the KODAK Oceans photographic competition.
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    Marine education in the school curriculum

    Within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, New Zealand has fourteen times more sea area than land. We are very much a maritime nation. However, education about this strange world is lagging far behind.

    It has been Seafriends' policy to develop and provide the required resource material first, before attempting to make marine studies a curriculum subject. At the moment there is precious little resource material available about the world under water. But the intertidal, including the mangroves, is well documented.

    We have learned that making a school resource requires a very special set of skills. It is a slow process. It is expensive. In 1999 we began producing a large and comprehensive resource on the Seafriends web site. It is a project that will take almost a decade to complete, but it will lay the basis of all education and action for conserving our seas.
    The new curriculum is a framework of learning outcomes and how to achieve these. But there is no accompanying resource material. As a result every school and teacher is rather busy in defining its own methods, resources, worksheets and tests. It is a very time-consuming activity and adds to the already stressful schedule of teachers. In the old days, a textbook was used. One started at chapter one and proceeded along. It was a simple method, tried and proven and it followed logical stepping stones, the next one building on the achievements of the ones before. It was efficient. Now the textbooks have been abandoned. Students end up with a confusion of poor quality handouts. At the end of the year they don't know how to study for their exams. 

    We believe that when school resources are available in electronic form, teachers can 'click and compose' their own handouts with a minimum of effort. Being open and scrutinisable, the Internet resource invites for valuable feedback and will be improved quickly. It provides a focus in the confusion that now exists. 

    Because the Internet will save the education community millions of dollars in lost time and stress and because costs cannot be recouped, we expect major support from Government Departments. 

    Support for Science Fair projects

    Every year, high school students are offered a chance to do scientific projects and to submit them to the annual Science Fairs. Regionally selected winners eventually compete on a national level. The Science Fairs aim to promote science. Unfortunately because the sea is difficult to get to, few projects are done on this topic. Seafriends wishes to encourage marine projects in the following ways:

  • By making prizes in cash and trophies available to the organisers.
  • By actively assisting students such as by making library books, research equipment, display stands and computer time available.
  • By making separate aquariums available for experimentation.

    Making movies

    New Zealand has its own nature film industry (The Wild South). It makes movies for the world at large and consequently works with rather large budgets (over $100,000 per half-hour). We need to show our fellow countrymen what our seas are all about, but on a lower budget. Movies that show how our seas work and what lives there, are able to drum up support and are educational and entertaining as well. We also need to be able to make training movies about standard research and monitoring techniques.

    Dr Anthoni has in the course of some 2000 dives collected some 60 hours of quality underwater movie, documenting the seas around us, historical moments as well as the unnoticed disasters of the past few years. Our seas are surprising and delightful. Each organism has its own magical capabilities, which it developed in the same time that humans evolved. The interaction between organisms and the many ways they have learned to cope is fascinating. These films are awaiting completion and need financial help. The movies will be available on a professional TV medium as well as on standard VHS or DVD. It is intended that the movies will be able:

  • To be shown to a large audience, preferably day-time TV.
  • To be shown at school, linked into learning programmes, complete with worksheets.
  • To muster interest and passion for our seas.
  • To enthuse divers and to persuade them to join Seafriends actively.
  • Seafriends Conferences

    In the late 70s and early 80s divers and others thronged to the annual 2-day 'Oceans' conferences. However, interest waned and the annual conference became uneconomical. Diving had changed from being an amateur activity to a professional one. It co-incided with diver training being taken over by PADI and the dive shops. Diving became a tourist activity, on a par with jet skiing, bungi jumping, parasailing and river rafting. Interest ironically reverted to crayfish and scallop bagging.

    Seafriends invites divers, amateur fishermen and others who work with or recreate on the sea, to give their pastime a deeper purpose; to have fun while at the same time contributing to a better future for all. The Conferences aim to bring contributors together and to bring enthusiasm to what they do. It may attract prospective members. The conferences are also manifestations of our progress and offer opportunity to learn from the many professionals in our country.

    Unlike the annual NZ Marine Sciences conferences, which are highly academic and crammed with presentations, the Seafriends Conferences will be more inspirational and instructional and there will be workshops for learning techniques and theory. They should be educational at a level that ordinary people can enjoy.
    Presence on the Internet

    The Internet has become a valuable asset for schools and will be most valuable for the Seafriends movement. The Internet is a valuable resource for finding information. It is also a good place for publishing information. One of this country's problems is that its population base is so small that books cannot be printed in sufficiently large batches to be economical. Consequently, many good ideas can not be published at all. Also once a book has made it, it rapidly goes out of print again. Particularly, books containing colour photographs are very expensive to print in small batches.

    The Internet by contrast, makes publishing affordable. Colour pictures can be included at little extra cost. Information is kept uptodate and the user can select what he or she needs. An Internet publication never needs to go 'out of print' and it can keep growing.

    The Internet is also a good medium for staying in touch, for conducting conferences, for opinions from users, news items and much more.

    A web site grows slowly but steadily and becomes ever more valuable. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make moneyfrom an Internet web site.

     The Seafriends web site should provide:

  • A place where schools can find background information, curriculum resources, worksheets.
  • A living document about our marine environment, in all its aspects that are relevant or interesting to the public.
  • A discussion area about marine issues
  • An area documenting past, current and future Seafriends projects.
  • An area where overseas visitors could learn from our 'Green and Clean' philosophy, our problems and our solutions.
  • An area for diving and dive sites.
  • A photo library from which copies can be purchased.

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    Marine Reserves in general

    Several marine reserves have been created since the first one near Leigh. Most if not all marine reserves suffer from essential mistakes. Reserve areas are typically proposed by a local group and then endorsed by the Department of Conservation. DoC then provides the scientific justification and initial studies. DoC also carries the proposal to parliament where it is cast in law. DoC then maintains the reserve.

    Some people think that any marine reserve is better than none at all but we dispute this. Firstly, every ill-conceived marine reserve prevents the creation of a better one in that area. Furthermore, reserves are but one of the tools for protecting the marine environment. Rather than creating high numbers of marine reserves, we should ask ourselves first what the problem is and then use the most appropriate tools as solutions.

    Although marine reserves have been created for over 25 years, they have never been studied or monitored sufficiently. DoC claims not to have any money for it, and it is true that DoC is grossly underfunded. We believe that some of DoC's tasks can be done more efficiently by an organisation with many volunteers and low overheads. In order to do so, we need to cooperate closely with DoC. It is going to be of benefit to both.

    A separate stream of funds is sought, originating from the Public Good Science Fund, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation. Supplemented by funds from elsewhere we would be able to give a new direction to the marine conservation effort. These funds are managed by the Seafriends Foundation to fund scientific and other activities relating to marine reserves. In this manner the public has a way to contribute and to set priorities.

    Present marine reserves have some or all of the following shortcomings:

  • They are too small. They do not have a large enough buffer zone between the proper reserve core and the periphery where full extraction is allowed. Many are ribbon-shaped, which leaves no nucleus at all. Some even allow fishing almost in the centre of the reserve area. At present typically 2-8 Km2 in area, reserves should be 30-80 Km2.

  • They do not include enough flat seabottom, the sandy/muddy bottoms where many fish feed.

  • Important related habitats nearby are often overlooked or not included: estuaries, deep currents.

  • Marine reserves are often created in areas that are deteriorating rapidly because of sewage effluent or pastoral run-off. These reserves can never recover under a no-take policy only.

  • They do not provide an infrastructure and operating budget for access and policing.

  • The local people are not involved. Decisions are made centrally, somewhere far away. Local contractors are not used. There is no local management committee. Money can easily be wasted in things that are not necessary whereas necessary things are not done.

  • Baseline monitoring is not done. We do not know whether reserves are working or not.

  • There is no methodology for creating marine reserves. Every new reserve seems to be a new ad-hoc affair, tumbling into the same pitfalls all the others did.
  • As a marine reserve succeeds, its value measured in fish stocks alone, becomes irresistible to poachers. Even one trespasser can cause many years of damage to an established reserve. Half a reserve is no reserve. Hence, constant surveillance is needed. A manned station with radar and radio is required, but such a station is affordable only when the reserve is big and valuable enough.

    Seafriends will move the marine reserve concept from 'no-take and it costs nothing' to 'pure wilderness area (paradise) and it will cost us dearly'. Only such areas are worthwhile passing on to our children.

    We would like side-scanning sonar to be tried to map the marine reserve areas in three dimensions and to provide working maps for marine monitoring and studies, and for the public.
    Enlarging existing reserves

    Instead of having many small marine reserves, one could be better off with fewer but bigger ones. From studies of land reserves, it has been established that the bigger the reserve, the more species are protected by it. Species who migrate far afield, however, will always miss out.

    Most of our marine reserves so far have been created to please people (scientists, divers, and educators). These reserves are small and are located in popular places with good access, but they suffer from major shortcomings. The Goat Island marine reserve is a point in case.

    The Goat Island marine reserve (Cape Rodney to Okakari Point marine reserve) is very successful, judged by the 120,000 visitors annually. Judged by its inhabitants, the story is quite different. Although crayfish have become more numerous, other species have not (blue maomao, trevally, demoiselle, marblefish). Some have even disappeared altogether (northern red scorpionfish, northern conger, bearded mussel, various sponges). This very first marine reserve suffers from the following shortcomings: 
  • The water is rapidly becoming murkier, causing sensitive species to disappear.
  • No baseline studies and very little monitoring have been done.
  • The reserve is far too small: only 4km2. It has a ribbon shape, which brings its boundary too close to its heart. Its buffer zone is too small. Its ill-chosen boundaries cause fish to spill out of the reserve rapidly.
  • It does not include enough 'feeding grounds', the flat sandy/muddy seabottoms around it.
  • It does not include some important habitats around it: the sandy beach, the natural mussel beds (which is rare on the East Coast), the shelltrap habitat, the currents around Cape Rodney.
  • There’s not enough and consistent policing to prevent poaching.
  • The local community has not been involved in its management. Decisions are made too far away.
  • No infrastructure inside the reserve exists: locator buoys, mooring buoys over anchor-sensitive areas, boating lanes, reserve boundary markers in the water.
  • Its success is causing problems: 
  • Fishes are being fed and their begging and biting is becoming a nuisance. 
  • It becomes difficult to observe natural behaviour.
  • Sea urchins are sacrificed to feed the fish, upsetting the natural balance.
  • People tread on sensitive intertidal areas causing creatures to disappear.
  • Stones are turned too frequently causing creatures to disappear
  • People 'assault' fish in attempts to 'touch' them, causing some fish to become shy.
  • Its success may eventually see 200,000 to 300,000 visitors annually.
  • To save the reserve, it could be made bigger, to the West into Pakiri Beach and to the North to include 4 Km of 'feeding grounds'. This would make its area 6x4=24km2.

    The sheltered Mathesons Bay could be made a marine reserve. At present it has been fished out completely, which would reduce the number of objectors. Mathesons Bay offers very nice snorkelling opportunities and is used regularly by dive schools. Once people start feeding the fish here, large numbers of kahawai, jack mackerel, sweep, parore and yellow-eyed mullet would come in, unlike the Goat Island reserve that attracts mainly blue maomao, snapper and parore. With Mathesons Bay as marine reserve, the Goat Island marine reserve could be extended South to include the beautiful Leigh Reef and Panetiki Island. It would add three new habitats to the reserve area: the sheltered reef, the outer reef and an enclosed harbour.

    The biggest threat to the Goat Island marine reserve comes from the Pakiri River, just West of it. During big rainstorms it deposits copious amounts of mud into all reaches of the reserve. The mud deposited by cyclone Bola took seven years to wash away. It took equally long at Mathesons Bay which is threatened by the little creek running into it. If we want to save these reserves, something needs to be done about the rivers' catchment areas. Fortunately these are really small and could be treated as a 'pilot' study for ways of improving coastal water quality elsewhere. We believe that this project has a very high priority because good research facilities are nearby and the area involved is relatively small. It also involves the very first marine reserve of NewZealand.

    Promoting new reserves

    Seafriends will propose marine reserves in localities that have been chosen with care. For instance the area around Cape Brett is one that deserves urgent attention.

    It has been observed that the pollution from Auckland drifts along the West Coast north and dips around North Cape to travel south again. Here it is at present destroying the once beautiful and pure Parengarenga and Houhora Harbours. In time this destructive influence may travel further south to take Mangonui and even the very rich Whangaroa Harbour.

    Likewise Auckland's effluent travels North along the East Coast where it has destroyed Long Bay, chased dive instructors away from Whangaparoa's Army Bay and is now threatening waters as far north as Leigh.

    However, there is an overlooked coastal area, somewhere in the geographical centre. It is the area directly around Cape Brett and immediately south of the Bay Of Islands. Preliminary observations have shown:

  • The area is far away from muddy harbours (Bay Of Islands) and launching ramps.
  • Very few people live here
  • DoC already owns a large part of Cape Brett.
  • This area, including a large deep seabottom around it, would probably encounter little objection.
  • The catchment area is very small, mainly because of Cape Brett where rural runoff is minimal.
  • There is a significant enclosed harbour (Whangamumu) with a variety of special habitats.
  • The water is very clear, compared to everywhere else on the coast. We measured a lower limit of the Ecklonia stalked kelp of 33m, compared to 35m at the very remote Poor Knights islands, 17m at Leigh on the edge of the Hauraki Gulf and 10m at Tiritiri Matangi half-way inside the Hauraki Gulf.
  • In February we measured cold water of 13 degrees underneath the surface layer of 17.5 degrees, with a thermocline at 17m. We suspect that a special eddy in our coastal current system is responsible for these cold conditions, which may favour cold water species.
  • The coast is very deep, 40m direct along promontories and going deeper still.
  • Although mainly a very exposed shore, pockets of sheltered reef habitat can be found in the sheltered bays and Whangamumu Harbour, offering diving and snorkelling pleasure second to none.
  • Several fishes that are now found only around remote islands are still found here: plenty of black angelfish, Lord Howe Island coralfish, black spotted grouper, Sandager's wrasse, notch-head marblefish, firebrick star. Muttonbird are nesting on coastal islets.
  • West coast species are found here: stichaster reef star, Durvillea bullkelp.
  • Crayfish and paua are still plentiful. Mussels occurred naturally but have been depleted. After protection this could be one of the few reserves with natural mussel banks.
  • Natural schools of semi-pelagic trevally, kahawai and even parore (!) were found feeding on plentiful plankton supplies. Marblefish and black angelfish are very numerous.
  • One or possibly more pods of dolphins reside in this area permanently.
  • We have never seen a coastal area so rich and varied. Even Lottin Point near East Cape cannot come close. We think that this area should be the first to be considered for marine reserve status.

    Supporting other reserve initiatives

    A number of marine reserve proposals are in the pipeline. Several of these threaten to create reserves with many shortcomings. No doubt, the Seafriends organisation will develop a valuable knowledge that will be brought in to support existing proposals. Ironically, the best that could be done now is to halt all reserve proposals temporarily until existing reserves have been evaluated for their effectiveness, and the causes of their failing recognised. We have evidence that existing reserves suffer unnecessarily from design mistakes. It makes no sense to continue along this failed path.
    Seafriends could help by documenting and photographing the habitats and species involved, by supporting public meetings, by funding specific research, by bringing experts together, by organising contributions from the public, by publishing progress on the Internet and in the SF Journal.

    Antarctic and Sub-antarctic marine reserves

    High priority is desirable for creating marine reserves in unspoilt and remote areas, particularly before they have been 'discovered'. Why should the entire world be subjected to the follies and greed of present generations? The Southern ecosystems may seem abundant but are they robust enough to support 'sustainable' exploitation? The Kermadec Islands marine reserves have proved to be successful and just in time.

    Seafriends will fight for the establishment of substantial marine reserves in unspoilt areas of all latitudes, including the pole continent. We will support other watchdog organisations in monitoring the damage done to Antarctica from exploration, exploitation and research. We will support the infrastructure in aircraft and ships needed to enforce conservation.
    Possum control

    Possums graze with devastating effect on coastal trees such as Pohutukawa. These trees that literally hold the soil on many of our steep shores, die in alarming numbers. Only by relentlessly controlling possums can we protect the shore vegetation. Also grazing causes our shores to erode too rapidly. Seafriends will champion for:

  • Stepping up possum control, particularly near marine reserve areas.
  • Creating possum-free peninsulas and islands.
  • Supporting DoC and F&B in their possum control efforts
  • Trialling possum control from boats.
  • Involving the public: boaties, farmers.
  • Developing instruction manuals and training films.
  • Overfishing

    Our country should never have had problems relating to overexploitation. It is an indictment of greed and imprudent management. Seafriends will carefully monitor this process and contribute to improvements:

  • Fisheries Scientists and other scientists must be held accountable for the advice they give, much like engineers and other professionals are.

  • Whenever a new resource is found, those wishing to exploit it should satisfy the Resource Management Act, like providing an environmental impact study, plans for monitoring and research, and a proof of sustainability.

  • The decision making process should be scrutinised.

  • Fishing policy should move from species management to balanced exploitation wherever possible.

  • Fishing policy should move from Maximum Sustainable Yield at Minimum Residual Biomass to Optimal Sustainable Yield at Optimal Biomass.

  • A cautionary margin should be respected for natural disasters

  • Less credence should be given to computer modelling

  • Fish spawning areas should be identified and incorporated into marine reserves.

  • Marine reserve areas must be created in all depths of ocean.

    Marine mammals and birds

    Life for marine mammals and birds is becoming more difficult because of human encroachment:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Competition for food
  • Entanglement in nets, fishing lines, debris
  • Being hunted
  • It is our duty to protect these species as part of our commitment to preserve the biological diversity on Earth. Several organisations like DoC, Forest and Bird are successfully working towards this end. The species seeking protection are well covered by the media, unlike the most important group of species, the plankton.

    We envisage that Seafriends may need to contribute little to our marine mammals and birds, although we will certainly contribute to informed debate and publication.

    Marine mammals should be managed from an ecological perspective and less so from an emotional one. For instance, we believe that by protecting the very numerous Minke Whale, we make life much more difficult for the great Fin, Blue and Right Whales, since they compete for the same territories and food sources.

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    Coastal monitoring

    When the Exxon Valdez floundered in Alaska, spilling a disastrous volume of crude oil onto an ecologically sensitive coastline, about a billion-dollar was spent on cleanup and research. After all that, it was conceded that hundreds of millions of dollars in marine research had been wasted, because no baseline data of before the disaster was available.


    In New Zealand, every ship entering one of our ports contributes to a disaster fund, mainly for such disasters. We should learn from the Exxon Valdez disaster, by putting a coastal monitoring programme in place before a catastrophe occurs. Mainly funded by the above fund, it would not cost much but would be beneficial in many ways:

  • The data from this coastal monitoring would be available as a baseline to gauge environmental damage due to maritime disasters.

  • It would save multiple millions of dollars in legal procedures to establish the level of liability after an important oil spill.

  • It would at the same time fund baseline monitoring inside and outside marine reserves, thereby revealing more about the nature of marine reserves.

  • It would give an idea of natural swings and variations.

  • It would document the extent of and changes in distribution of indigenous species.

  • It would assist in discovering new immigrant species, possibly originating from ballast water.

  • It would give an early warning of deterioration, such as from sudden logging, dredging, fishing, housing development or even natural disasters.

  • It would help us monitor the result of coastal policies and land improvements.
  • We like to extend this monitoring to the most important habitat of all: the coastal plankton. In this manner we could monitor our poisonous plankton blooms and learn more about these ecosystems.

    Monitoring is an activity that can best be done by institutions because it requires a long term commitment and does not yield glamorous results that justify visiting overseas conferences and filling scientific publications. Many types of monitoring are low-brow activities. They could be learned by conscientious amateurs. In this way the public could take part: fishing clubs, boating clubs, dive clubs, schools, environmental clubs.

    Seafriends wants to encourage and help fund initiatives and provide an umbrella organisation that would benefit all participants.
    Marine Habitat Survey

    The English have done marine habitat surveys for years (SEASARCH), with many keen scientists. This has enabled them to take stock of their coastal inventory. Scientists have also been working at measuring underwater habitats with sonar.

    Australia has just completed a State Of the Marine Environment Report (SOMER) which details and measures all known coastal habitats. Hundreds of scientists were involved and many millions of dollars. The report serves as a basis for political decision making.

    "Clean and Green" New Zealand, however, lags far behind. What should we do? We are not that well resourced and we have so much sea. We don't believe that blindly following either the English way or what the Australians have done, is going to work for us.

    We believe, however, that we should make a start in cataloguing our marine environments, first qualitatively and then quantitatively. It should dovetail in with the other activities mentioned in this blueprint by:

  • Discovering which distinct marine habitats and communities exist and which species are the main players in these communities.

  • Documenting and photographing such communities so that others can recognise them and in a form useful to others, like publications and Internet.

  • Conducting pilot studies as to the distribution and area of some communities.

  • Progressively engaging the public to help with habitat surveys.

  • Discovering and defining key species (indicator species) that are most sensitive to pollution but that also occur commonly, particularly native species.

  • Measuring, mapping and quantifying habitat degradation: lowest plant depths, densities of dust/mud layers, etc.

  • Studying the interactions and functions of marine species in their communities.

  • Studying the effects of human influence on these communities.

    Aerial surveys

    For the proper mapping of research, reserve and monitoring areas, Seafriends will make extensive use of aerial mapping using aerial photography. We rely on the help of many people and for them to be efficient and well informed, we see aerial photography as indispensable (see also next chapter).

    Tracking our past

    Because NZ has done practically no long-term monitoring of anything at all, there exists no scientific data to measure the deterioration of our coastal waters. Only anecdotal evidence can give us an idea of where we are coming from. This record in turn is essential to measure the progress towards cleaning up our seas, for aren't we essentially planning to go back in time?

    Much information lies hidden in captain's boat logs, fishing competition results and so on. Likewise the Department of Survey and Land Information may have untold gems of information hidden away in numerous photographs taken for the purpose of mapping. The time has come to unlock this information and to discover what has changed. The sooner we start, the more we will find, while the older generations are still alive to tell their tale.

    From this effort we may be able to advise captains, fishermen and others, how to log their results for optimal scientific and historical value.

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    Compilation of existing knowledge

    For every project in this blueprint, departments and scientists may already have done some work, here in NZ or overseas. That information is often difficult to obtain, certainly by lay persons. It is necessary therefore, to spend some time surveying the knowledge field and compiling it into volumes that are accessible to all. Certainly in the beginning years, much effort must go into this activity. It is like finding out where we are. Knowledge compilations foster informed debate.

    Research for New Zealand

    Although it is important that fundamental research is done, we feel that the research dollar can be better targeted. Too much research is done that is not fundamental yet does not benefit New Zealand. We believe that this could be improved if only the public was more aware of how the Public Good Science Fund is spent. The public deserves to get best value for its research dollar. We will:

  • Scrutinise all marine research done in New Zealand for its value to our country.
  • Pinpoint what kind of research is urgently needed for our country
  • Convince the politicians that more marine research is needed to manage our Exclusive Economic Zone, to discover what is there and to improve our coastal seas.
  • Influence existing funding and support new funding.
  • Aquarium/ecosystem studies

    Most of the problems we are experiencing worldwide are biological or ecological in origin. We fail to find solutions mainly because we understand ecosystems so poorly. The ecosystems of our oceans are so huge and involve so many organisms, that they cannot be studied in a controlled environment. Nevertheless, aquariums, the most sensitive of ecosystems of all, can be studied as controlled environments. Seafriends has been pioneering the creation of a fully closed marine ecosystem in only 3000 litres of seawater, without a connection to the sea and we will continue along this path empirically. Seafriends will encourage scientists to take up this challenge:

  • by promoting this idea among scientists
  • by pressing for funds for this purpose
  • by allowing students and scientists access to Seafriends aquariums to do research
  • by providing closed-circulation aquariums for this research and by looking after them.
  • Ecosystem research further links in with other projects mentioned in this blueprint:
  • Spreading sewage over the ocean.
  • Designing ecological solutions to society's problems.
  • The 'ultimate' solution of bringing power generation, fresh water generation and effluent treatment together.
  • Support for Science Fair school projects.
  • Basic research facilities to be made part of the Seafriends new aquariums.
  • Environmental emergency fund

    In the past few years our oceans have experienced traumatic events such as:

  • Low temperatures
  • Shifts in ocean currents
  • Poisonous plankton blooms
  • Fish mass mortality
  • Kelpbed death
  • Heavy cyclones: extraordinary rainfall and waves
  • Extraordinary levels of soil erosion
  • In attempting to alert the scientific community to study such events, because much could be learned from these, we have been told:

  • One can't study a one-off event; it is not a controlled experiment
  • We have no funds to do so
  • Nobody is interested
  • Our people are not paid to do so
  • We don't subsidise unaccredited institutions (volunteers)
  • Seafriends will remedy this situation as follows:
  • Convince the Minister for the Environment that a fund should be set aside for such occasions.
  • Manage a portion of that fund for fast discretionary spending in emergencies.
  • Maintain an alerting network of people who work with the sea or use it frequently, complete with an 0800 telephone number.
  • Include disaster monitoring in our regular monitoring programme.
  • Widely advertise this project.
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    Improved land management

    Run-off from agricultural land is without doubt this country's number one problem. NZ is a 'young' country, being farmed extensively for less than a hundred years. From the way species are disappearing and conditions for good photography are becoming rarer, it appears that soil erosion has been accelerating in the past ten years. Precious topsoil washes into the sea, creating problems on the land as well as in the water. It is ludicrous to let this happen while watching helplessly. Possible causes of the rapid increase could be:

  • Increased rainfall during the El Nino years
  • More heavy storms and cyclones. Heavy downpours cause massive erosion.
  • No more subsidy on fertiliser. Farmers are applying less and the grass root systems become weaker, being less able to hold the soil together. As the grass canopy shrinks, the soil becomes more exposed to rain drops.
  • More coastal and urban development. More roads and subdivisions are cut. More earth shifting and landscaping.
  • What makes the situation worse is that very little monitoring of soil erosion or water quality has been done in the past. We have no record, but disappearing marine species have a convincing story to tell. We urgently need to do a few simple and a few difficult steps:
  • Set up a network of monitoring stations (See chapter 4).
  • Use underwater surveys to monitor 'key' species that are sensitive to deterioration.
  • Re-institute subsidies on fertiliser until better farming methods have been introduced (which may take 40 years!). Note that fertiliser applied to the land, eventually washes into the sea where it may fertilise heavy plankton blooms. Ironically, this appears to be the lesser of two evils.
  • Subsidise reforestation and bring in volunteers (work for the dole).
  • Start scientific studies that study or support the above actions.
  • Start scientific studies that aim to improve soil during farming.
  • Farming for topsoil?

    NZ has many types of soil and conditions of farming. The flat farms in the Waikato pose problems of overproduction, whereas the steep hill farms suffer from heavy soil erosion and low performance. Climatic circumstances add problems of their own. However, in all cases it will be beneficial to look at farming from an ecological perspective. What grows on one square metre of farmland? Only fifty grams of meat, a kilogram of grass but hidden in the soil lives ten kilograms of fungi, worms, nematodes and more. So what are we farming? Beef or topsoil?

    What does it need to farm topsoil? Plant matter, carbohydrates. Yet we let our livestock eat the lot, leaving too little for the soil, which needs it too. It is called 'overgrazing'. Overgrazed soils recycle wastes poorly and they are hardly capable of storing moisture. Nutrients are lost unnecessarily. A vicious cycle towards degradation and erosion sets in.

    'Green finger' gardeners have known it all along: for good soil, one needs a lot of peat or sawdust or anything that contains degradable carbo-hydrates.

    Likewise topsoil can be improved by mowing some grass for the soil. Mowing after grazing has been known to improve soil and production. Deciduous trees can be planted to add carbo-hydrate fodder to the soil. In the summer they shade the soil from the searing sun and they keep the winds off the grass, helping it to stay moist. In winter they let the sunlight through to heat the soil and to help the grass to grow. Other methods can be found and experimented with. In the worst cases, the land can be reforested.

    Coastal infrastructure

    New Zealand's coastal infrastructure of wharves, boat ramps and ports has very much been neglected. As a result, access to the sea and transport over the sea have been less than optimal. In remote and less developed areas such as East Cape and Westland, good access to the sea is of critical importance to welfare and wellbeing of its communities. In order to conserve our coastal sea and to be able to manage and monitor it properly, good access is important.

    Seafriends will champion for improvements in all aspects of coastal infrastructure in all areas.

    Sewage Treatment

    Effluent from the treatment of sewage is NZ's second biggest problem and in some places foremost. Treated effluent, rich in nutrients, is released along the shore where it travels with along-shore currents. The nutrients fertilise our already heavy plankton blooms which then become a nuisance and even poisonous. Shellfish fisheries now have to be closed, for long periods of the year. Yet only ten years ago, we would have believed that NZ be spared the problems of the populated northern hemisphere. So what is causing all this?

    NZ is unique in that it has a large livestock population: 8 million cattle and 55 million sheep. The effluent produced by these would equate to a human population of between 40 and 80 million people! Our welfare level and wealth depend directly on this grazing population so it will remain a fact of life for us for the foreseeable future.

    Problems are from time to time exacerbated by stagnation in sea currents (the El Nino cycle) that normally rinse the shores from pollution. Currents passing the populated centres of Australia, also feed into our near-coastal seas. Our fisheries have always benefited from this. But along the shore, it causes nutrient levels to build up past an optimal level. Our coastal seas become 'eutrophicated' occasionally, resulting in noxious plankton blooms. It is exactly here that we find our richest and most diverse marine communities.

    Not only is the sewage disposal rate high near populated centres, but it increases much faster than the population (20 percent per year!). At the moment the Auckland sewage treatment facilities are being upgraded for a mere $350 million, which is only going to cause more stress to the environment!

    While solving our problems with solutions from elsewhere, we should not be afraid to find our own solutions. With such an enormous volume of ocean around us, it makes no sense to treat our sewage, only to release its nutrients along our most sensitive shore. Why not ship the raw sewage (after pulverising and sieving) out to sea, using disused oil tankers? Here, 20 to 80 Km out in sea, where nutrient levels are almost nil, the sewage should be spread over vast areas. Its treatment and recycling will be done by the myriad of plankton micro-organisms, which throughout the history of our planet, have done just that.

    Sewage tanker stations could be located inside safe harbours and further out in sea. Our wave regime is such that this is feasible. A small fleet of sewage tankers would be required to service all urban centres. Current treatment ponds are adequate for storing sewage to tide over very bad weather. Should a 'spill' occur, remember that today, one is occurring every day!

    This is what needs to be done urgently:

  • Review thesewage expansion projects of all major cities in the light of this option.
  • Contract engineers and marine experts to do the necessary calculations.
  • Set up a pilot site.
  • Direct-disposal into the sewage system like 'insinkerators' to be banned.
  • The separation of storm water from sewage water to be speeded up.
  • Leaking sewage systems to be fixed
  • A review and a report on all of the above matters.
  • We know that the key to sustainability is found in recycling. Various efforts have been made to do so but New Zealand is a rather small country with only a small ‘market’ for the recycled products. Part of the problem is that society’s infrastructure has never been designed for recycling. The 'Ultimate solution' sketched below is not just thin air but is probably more feasible than at first thought.
    The ultimate solution

    In the past few years NZ has seen disastrous decisions on privatisation. Energy, waste and water are now so independent of one another that we may have forgotten that they all interrelate: for every person added to this country we need more food, drinking water, sewage treatment, refuse treatment and energy. Ironically, the ultimate solution to all of our problems may be found by bringing these utilities under one roof and designing a standard unit for a population size of say 250,000 people.

    Located near an estuary and arable land (which could have been reclaimed), a power station would generate the required electricity. Waste heat is used to evaporate sewage water (done in Japan), to produce drinking water of high purity while being cheaper than what Aucklanders pay now (Arabia). The remaining heat is used for horticulture and aquaculture (marine and freshwater). The concentrated sewage is treated and used on the land and in hydroponics. Sludge is recovered and turned to compost in the refuse recycling department. The remaining effluent is used to farm oysters and mussels in the estuary. These filter the marine plankton, converting plant matter very efficiently into proteins. The sludge underneath these cultures is collected and reprocessed through the system or reused on organic gardens. The refuse collection site would involve a high degree of substance separation and recycling.

    Because of its integration, benefits are reaped in all directions. By paying for electricity and water, users would automatically pay for sewage treatment and refuse processing. A similar ecological unit could be designed for inland locations, far away from the sea.

    Marine farming

    Marine farming provides a sustainable and efficient source of protein. Salmon is wasteful to farm because it is a predator, requiring a high level of protein intake, but it has a ready, profitable market. By contrast, all shellfish feeding from phyto-plankton, deliver the shortest food chain to protein (Sunlight to phyto-plankton to meat). Not only are oyster, mussel and scallop cultures economically profitable, but these creatures also remove nutrients from our coastal seas. They recycle our sewage effluent. For the sake of the future of our seas, we like to encourage marine farming of shellfish, by:
  • Studying ways to overcome disadvantages such as low stocking densities, obstruction to mariners, visual impact, being limited to very sheltered waters, polluting the seabed.
  • Studying marine farms from an ecological perspective.
  • Widening public awareness by publishing and writing articles.
  • Ballast water

    The potential danger of importing exotic species in ships' ballast water has received wide media attention recently but it is a problem of low priority. In all the years of cultivating New Zealand, many exotic and noxious pests have appeared on the land but relatively few if any have been noticed in the sea. Seas are naturally interconnected unlike land masses. Nonetheless, we should remain vigilant:

  • by contributing to the debate
  • by measuring planktonic species in ballast water
  • by doing pilot studies of proposed solutions
  • by looking for exotic species during routine monitoring and habitat mapping
  • by monitoring, studying and mapping exotic species once they have been found
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