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Future management of NZ marine environment focus of major Stewart Island event

Leith river run

Wednesday 29 June 2011 9:41am

Stewart Island will host around 150 scientists, researchers and conservationists next week to discuss the best way to manage New Zealand’s unique yet fragile marine environment.

Conference organiser, University of Otago Professor Gary Wilson, says the focus of the New Zealand Marine Science Society-sponsored event is to explore opportunities and advance understanding of New Zealand’s unique marine environment for its future management and conservation.

“The marine environment is intrinsic to New Zealanders. It dominates our climate, is one of our major recreational environments and supports billion dollar industries in fisheries and aquaculture, oil, gas and tourism,” says Professor Wilson.

“The conference location of Stewart Island is very poignant because it is New Zealand’s southernmost inhabited extent and hence a focal point for many of the issues that will be discussed at the conference.”

Professor Wilson adds that this Island community (population 400), located in the Southern Ocean, has a rich maritime history, productive waters and captivating marine life, and is an “engaging setting to consider New Zealand’s marine realm.”

The main themes of the conference will be New Zealand’s unique marine environment, change in the marine environment and management and use of marine resources.

Keynote speakers on the marine environment include Dr Simon Thrush, principal scientist at NIWA and 2010 recipient of the NZ Marine Science Society Award, who will talk about changes in nature and the nature of change in our ecosystems; and Dr Malcolm Francis, also a principal scientist at NIWA, who will talk about Great White sharks and whether or not Stewart Island is their home base.

NIWA Chairman Chris Mace will talk about the challenges and conflicts in management and use of marine resources and Dr Mary Livingston, principal scientist at the Ministry of Fisheries, will give an overview of a census of Antarctic marine life conducted in the Ross Sea region between 2008 and 2011. She will discuss how these findings are being incorporated into management of the toothfish fishery.

Keynote speakers on change in the marine environment include Katharine Baer-Jones, winner of the 2010 NZ Marine Science Research Grant and Marine Chemist at the University of Otago, who will talk about innovative satellite-sensing methods to monitor oceanic changes, and Dunedin-based author and photographer Neville Peat, who will talk about the Maori and maritime history associated with Stewart island and the Tasman Sea.

Delegates will also hear from broadcaster Alison Ballance, who will talk about her work on New Zealand’s remote islands and champion world yachtsman and AUT academic Professor Mark Orams, who will provide a global perspective on the challenges for managing New Zealand’s marine environment.

The conference starts on Tuesday 5 July and runs through to Friday 8 July. It will be held in the community centre in the Stewart Island township of Oban.

Second stage of Southern Right Whale research

Also, the University of Otago research vessel the Polaris will leave from Stewart Island after the conference with a team of researchers to go down to the Auckland Islands to continue a three-year multi-disciplinary research project which was started last winter.

The team will study the habitat-preferences and movement patterns of the Southern Right Whale population; the winter diet of the New Zealand Sea Lions and the pollutant loads in marine wildlife.

This trip focuses on the second year of their work, with the final year and results expected at the end of 2012.

Project leader Dr Will Rayment says the team is equipped this time with sonar equipment to gather information for the first time on the way the whales communicate.

“We will make recordings of whale vocalisations, relating these to their behaviour and, through collaboration with researchers in the US, comparing the acoustic environments of the relatively unpolluted South Pacific Ocean with the noisy North Atlantic,” he says.

For further information, contact

Gary Wilson
021 731489

Or, if at Stewart Island, the Polaris number is 0274391672.

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