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Kelp the Hauraki Gulf Sandager's Wrasse swimming amongst native Ecklonia radiata kelp forest

Kelp the Hauraki Gulf

Watch the world around you change

I love the feeling of how a whole mysterious world envelopes you, as you slip underwater. Suddenly you are flying over forest canopies, instead of looking up at branches from the ground. These seaweed forests undulate and sway, while you float mesmerized. Then, your eyes adjust and pick out details of the complex universe you have just entered. Flashes of colour and fins dart about the forest.

There are so many different hues, textures, shapes and sizes all over, under, above, and around the forest. Who is a critter, is that sponge or algae; which is a rock, and are these more seaweeds growing on the seaweeds? Every surface is covered and teeming with life: even the shell of a snail, or the tip of a blade of seaweed, is home to it’s own community of organisms.

But sometimes, all that greets your eyes, are stretches of spiky urchins, or kina (te reo Māori) spread out all over bare rock, because they’ve mowed down the succulent kelp with their voracious appetites. Just as on land: when predator numbers are too low, grazer populations increase and overwhelm the amount of available food. They consume the seaweed faster than it regrows and reproduces, and a barren landscape inevitably follows. The seaweed is not only food for kina: it is food, home, shelter, and protection for other fishes, mollusks, algae, etc., and a producer of oxygen. When the seaweed is gone, so is the diverse community of life it supports. The remaining kina starve in the barren they created.

Kelp the Hauraki Gulf – Removing urchin/ kina barrens for native kelp restoration.

I put a little video together about Kelsey’s work for the New Zealand Sea Week video comp. Kelsey suggested it, because I did an earlier version last year as homework for a science communications course (NZ Science Media Centre SAVVY video workshop). She’s working on understanding the science behind removing sea urchins/kina, as an approach to restoring lost kelp forests. It’s a big project involving many helpers, volunteers and collaborators! She’s done 150+ dives in the last six months alone.

It’s not super polished, with editing and land footage done on generic budget mobile phones. The Zoom interview was recorded on her laptop, and our underwater scenes used simple cameras. But I’m always excited to be able to play with some fun science storytelling. It’s not about spending big bucks on all the gear, but starting somewhere, and using what you have.

Video details

Underwater footage: Kelsey’s GoPro, and my Sony CyberShot digital camera.


Leigh Marine Lab

Main beach – Goat Island Marine Reserve (Motu Hawere; Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve)

Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre

Various Hauraki Gulf sites.

Watch the video here:

Kelp the Hauraki Gulf Sandager's Wrasse swimming amongst native Ecklonia radiata kelp forest
Kelp the Hauraki Gulf – Sandager’s Wrasse swimming amongst native Ecklonia radiata kelp forest