Richard Robinson

2/3

Two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by ocean. The 2/3 Virtual Reality Project celebrates and promotes this silent majority of the planet that remains vulnerable to human activity, the part that contains 80 percent of all life.

Science & Environment

Feature: Is the world losing its last pristine reefs?

Just 1.5 per cent of the world’s reefs are in an undisturbed state, say scientists, and one-third are in New Caledonia, a French territory vulnerable to illegal fishing and unable to agree on a management plan for its marine park—the second largest in the world. Last month, a film crew traveled to one of the most remote reefs on the planet and discovered why conservation can't keep up with ecosystem change.

Sentinel, a hingebeak shrimp stands at attention on a Turbinaria coral at North Chanter Island in the Herald Islets—a small cluster of islands off the eastern shore of the main island of Raoul. The Kermadec Islands are distributed over two degrees of longitude and harbour tropical species such as these, more commonly seen on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as temperate water varieties common to the mainland.
Blue sharks cut sinuous arcs through clear water off the Bay of Plenty. Rather than the thug-like predators of popular imagination, blues have leaner frames; they are ocean gliders, built for stealth and endurance more than power and speed. Their bodies are slim and efficient, and their out-sized pectoral fins which extend, wing-like, from their flanks allow them to soar through the water column in their daily commute between food at depth and warmer waters at the surface.
Blue sharks cut sinuous arcs through clear water off the Bay of Plenty. Rather than the thug-like predators of popular imagination, blues have leaner frames; they are ocean gliders, built for stealth and endurance more than power and speed. Their bodies are slim and efficient, and their out-sized pectoral fins which extend, wing-like, from their flanks allow them to soar through the water column in their daily commute between food at depth and warmer waters at the surface.
Usually a metre long with conspicuous teeth—but sometimes attaining a length of two metres—the speckled moray is a fearsome-looking fish. It is also a highly effective predator, ambushing prey during the day from hidden lairs like this one, covered in coral polyps at Raoul Island, and hunting more widely at night. They’re equipped with large teeth, designed to tear flesh as opposed to holding or chewing, and a second set of jaws deep in their throat, also equipped with teeth, which are used to drag prey into the digestive system.
Snares crested penguins are endemic to the tiny Snares island group, 200 kilometres south of mainland New Zealand. Like all penguins, their lives are determined by the rhythms of a breeding cycle—laying eggs from late September and working ceaselessly to raise their chicks to fledging around four months later. The adults then go to sea for a couple of months to fatten up before returning to land to moult their feathers. Armed with fresh plumage, they spend the winter migrating thousands of kilometres in search of prey.
Snares crested penguins are endemic to the tiny Snares island group, 200 kilometres south of mainland New Zealand. Like all penguins, their lives are determined by the rhythms of a breeding cycle—laying eggs from late September and working ceaselessly to raise their chicks to fledging around four months later. The adults then go to sea for a couple of months to fatten up before returning to land to moult their feathers. Armed with fresh plumage, they spend the winter migrating thousands of kilometres in search of prey.
Striped boarfish put on a show at the largest of the Milne Islets. The group takes its name from its snout-like beak, though few species are as colourful or dramatically patterned as these. They are rare on the mainland and typically found in pairs or small groups at the Kermadecs. This aggregation of 38 individuals is a remarkable sight, and may be the same group recorded in this location by NIWA researcher Malcolm Francis two decades ago.
Icon of southern seas, the giant bladder kelp Macrocystis pyrifera bends to the sea current at New Zealand’s second largest marine reserve, created in 2003 around the subantarctic Auckland Islands. The species was introduced to the Quota Management System in 2010 so that it could be commercially harvested for processing into pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, garden fertiliser and other products. Marine scientists protested the move, saying that harvesting of such a keystone species was akin to logging native forest.
Icon of southern seas, the giant bladder kelp Macrocystis pyrifera bends to the sea current at New Zealand’s second largest marine reserve, created in 2003 around the subantarctic Auckland Islands. The species was introduced to the Quota Management System in 2010 so that it could be commercially harvested for processing into pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, garden fertiliser and other products. Marine scientists protested the move, saying that harvesting of such a keystone species was akin to logging native forest.

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