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Bulletin of the Auckland Museum

Introduction to the Kermadec Biodiscovery Expedition 2011

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Introduction to the Kermadec Biodiscovery Expedition 2011

Thomas Trnski
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Peter J. de Lange
Department of Conservation
16 October 2015


The Kermadec Islands are located midway between Tonga and the North Island of New Zealand. These subtropical islands are the northern-most extension of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and they are potential stepping-stones in the migration pathways for species between the tropical islands to the north and temperate mainland of New Zealand. Alternatively, the isolation of the Kermadec Islands presents opportunities for vicariant speciation; the nearest islands are Norfolk Island about 1,300 km to the west, the Tongan islands of Minerva Reefs and Ata Island, respectively 650 km and 870 km to the north, Niue 1,500 km to the northeast and northern New Zealand 900 km to the south. The islands were gazetted as a Marine Reserve in 1990 following a proposal by Francis (1985). The territorial waters (12 nautical miles) around the emergent islands together constitute the largest no-take marine reserve in New Zealand, covering a total area of 748,000 hectares. It is one of only four marine protected areas in the world with all of the five factors that are correlated with measurable positive effects on fish size, biomass, diversity and the number of sharks (Edgar et al., 2014). The initial proposal to undertake a detailed coastal survey of marine communities in the Kermadec Islands was suggested in late 2007. But it took over three years to assemble the survey team, generate sufficient financial support and secure a suitable research vessel. The resulting expedition on the RV Braveheart had a complement of 14 scientists and a photographer, and was titled the Kermadec Biodiscovery Expedition 2011. We departed Tauranga on 9 May 2011 and spent a full 15 days at the Kermadec Islands, fortunately during a remarkably long spell of calm weather; however, conditions on the journey to and from the islands challenged the constitution of most of us.

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Trnski, T. and P.J. de Lange 2015. Introduction to the Kermadec Biodiscovery Expedition 2011. Bulletin of the Auckland Museum 20: 1–18.