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2017

Expedition ending on a high in the Kermadecs

BY TOM TRNSKI
Friday, 15 September 2017

We’ve finished our incredible six-week marine expedition on a high – diving at almost every island in Rangitahua, the Kermadec Islands, before making our way back to New Zealand.

We had reasonable conditions with some strong swells, but despite this we managed a full day at Raoul Island and L’Esperance Rock and half days at Cheeseman and Macauley islands. The BRUV team managed to get a good set of data at Raoul and Macauley – no mean feat given it involved up to 12 deployments of their gear at each location!

Aerial view of Macauley Island, Rangitahua (Kermadec Islands).

Richard Robinson www.depth.co.nz

Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be working through the masses of data each of the research teams have collected and we’ll confirm the new records and even – we’re pretty confident – new species that we’ve found on this expedition.

As a parting gift the Kermadecs offered up one more new find – photographer Richard Robinson snapped this little fish and it’s definitely a new record for the Kermadecs.

This is the first record at Rangitahua (the Kermadec Islands) of the teardrop butterflyfish Chaetodon unimaculatus. Every time we visit Rangitahua we record tropical fishes that have been observed for the first time at these subtropical islands

Richard Robinson www.depth.co.nz

Even before we got to the Kermadecs we were inspired by the opportunities we have had on this expedition to work closely with the local communities in both the Lau Group and in Tele-ki-Tokelau North Minerva and Tele-ki-Tonga South Minerva.

As part of the process of gaining access to these rarely surveyed islands and reefs we worked with the local chiefs and their communities to obtain their approval to undertake our work.

Working with these communities was really rewarding for us for a couple of reasons. One reason was their level of interest in our research and in learning more about the marine life in the waters around their homes. Sometimes observers from the different islands joined us and said they felt privileged to see the beautiful fish species that we were finding – many of which they had never seen before.

The tender Dirk returns to the RV Braveheart after a dive at Rangitahua (Kermadec Islands).

Richard Robinson www.depth.co.nz

Another reason we found it so rewarding was the discovery that these communities already had their own marine management systems in place. Many island communities had created marine protected areas that were identified as no fishing zones – and we ensured that we did not collect in these areas.

These protected areas were usually on a rotation of a number of years, allowing the different species to recover and repopulate. It demonstrates that local protection is a valuable tool to maintain the health of their marine environments in the future.

In the end, that’s the overarching goal for all of the work we’ve carried out on this expedition: we want to learn more about our marine environments and the plants and animals who live there, so we can contribute to their long-term health and protection. We’ll share some of the overarching discoveries we’ve made in our final blog but for now we’ll leave you with a sample of the underwater life at Rangitahua Kermadec Islands…

  • Post by: Tom Trnski

    Ever since Tom Trnski learnt to snorkel he has had an abiding interest in the life-forms found in our blue backyard and has lead a number of research expeditions to remote islands off the coast of New Zealand and throughout the Pacific. He currently heads the Auckland Museum's Natural Sciences team whose main activities are collection management, collection development, research, and exhibitions and public programmes relating to our collecting areas of botany, entomology, geology, land vertebrates, marine biology and palaeontology.