Timeline of degradation events in New Zealand

By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2004- )

It is easy to ignore degradation if it does not happen in one's own backyard. New Zealanders in particular live in a dream world of believing that their country is green and clean, a message loudly heralded by both government and commerce to lure more tourists to God's Own Country. But over the years, alarming messages have appeared in newspapers and elsewhere, and these are summarised here to leave no doubt about the seriousness and escalation of ill health in the sea. Perhaps there exist similarities with the situations elsewhere in the world, something we can learn from.  As this subject has been my focus of study since 1987, many observations will be mine alone. I hope others will learn how to observe and share their observations with me. Have you seen changes in the sea? Click here and report them for others.
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As degradation intensifies, one sees more and more symptoms, while also new symptoms are seen for the first time. By recording these, perhaps an order of importance or severity can be established, which may lead to further understanding of the whole phenomenon. Here is a time line of events as they have been recorded or remembered. It is hoped that you, the reader, can add to it or make improvements. Question marks identify uncertainty. Note our observation of fish mass mortalities every 9 years after an El Niño event, indicating stagnation of ocean currents: 1983, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2019?
[1] Anthoni J F: personal observations and photography.
[2] Various newspapers: NZH= New Zealand Herald; RT= Rodney Times; VAR=various telephone and e-mail reports;
[3] Taylor F J, Taylor N J, Walsby J R (1985): A bloom of the planktonic diatom Cerataulina pelagica, off the coast of northeastern New Zealand in 1983, and its contribution to an associated mortality of fish and benthic fauna. Int Revue Ges Hydrobiol 10, 1985, 6 773-795.
[4] Babcock RC, Cole R G (1993): The extent of die-back of the kelp Ecklonia radiata in the Cape Rodney to Okakari Pt Marine Reserve. Advice to the Department of Conservation
[5] Dept of conservation: Monitoring results of Leigh marine reserve. Various reports.
[6] Babcock R C, Kelly S, Shears N T, Walker J W, Willis T J: Changes in community structure in temperate marine reserves. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 189:125-134 (1999)
[7] Denny C M, Willis T J, Babcock R C  (2003): Effects of Poor Knights Marine Reserve on demersal fish populations.  DOC Science Internal Series 142.  Department of Conservation.  34p.
[8] NIWA report
[9] Hayward, B. W.; Morley, M. S. 2004: Intertidal life around the coast of the Waitakere Ranges, Auckland, Auckland Regional Council Working Report No. 111. 102 p.
[10] Chang F H et al. (1999): Three recently recorded Ostreopsis spp. (Dinophyceae) in New Zealand: temporal and regional distribution in the upper North Island from 1995 to 1997. NZ J Mar Freshw Res 2000.

a dead black coral tree with magenta anemones
black rot in pink paint
f042026: (2004) the hardiest organism of all, pink paint is now under attack of a mysterious black rot, seen in three places from Leigh to Little Barrier. The photo shows how the rot progressed from the dark green patch to the light green one, through the white into the black margin, leaving dead pink paint behind. This is the latest symptom.
f021807: (left photo) In 1983 black coral trees died in northern NZ. This must have been a 2.5m tall tree. Now it has snared a fishing line while magenta jewel anemones grow around its thickest parts. Demoiselles  and butterfly perch swimming past. This was the first clear symptom.
the beach littered with kahawai and yellowtail
disease symptoms
June 2010: a red blood blister underneath a kahawai's chin.

Photo left: June 2010, the beach at Baylys Beach, Northland NZ, littered with dead kahawai (Arripis trutta) and yellowtail jackmackerel (Trachurus novaezelandiae)

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