Experiencing Marine Reserves - November 2011: Okaihau school set to present marine experiences to the community - Friday 5pm Year 5 & 6 students at Okaihau primary school have been participating in the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) this term.
The programme started at the beginning of the term with an introduction to marine biodiversity and conservation in the classroom with programme director Samara Nicholas before learning to snorkel in the pool. The next stage of the programme was to investigate the local marine environment; we explored the underwater world of Matauri Bay
“Matauri Bay was beautiful, we saw a variety of reef fish and small crayfish, however we noticed the absence of large snapper or crayfish and some parts of the reef were overpopulated by kina, indicating that large predators (such as snapper & crayfish) have been removed by fishing, this changing the ecological structure of the reef, compared to the Goat Island Marine reserve that has had no take status since 1975, where the habitat has changed from a rocky reef area over run by kina, to an area with full protection fostering growth of predators such as crayfish and snapper whom keep the kina at bay, allowing the seaweed forest to regenerate and allow more variety of marine life” says Samara
One of the final stages of the programme is to experience a marine reserve, Okaihau fundraised and gained the support of the Oxford Sports Trust to assist in the charter to the Poor Knights on board Dive Tutukaka’s ‘Perfect Day’.
With large, inquisitive snapper, schools of blue mao mao and demoiselles flocking around students clad in yellow wetsuits, the air was loud with the exclamations of kids and parents alike. Children busied their day exploring the magical underwater playground of the Poor Knights, Sharing the water with large bluefish and roaming bands of trevally.
“These underwater experiences allow students to see first hand the abundance of life present at a marine reserve. It is really inspires them to do learn more and to spread the marine conservation message” says Samara
After ample snorkeling and kayaking time, we lifted the anchor for a tour around the beautiful islands that make up the Poor Knights. We pulled into Rikoriko, which means ‘shimmering light’, the largest sea cave in the world. Stunned silence was brief from the students, which was quickly followed by shouts and yells of absolute glee as the sounds bounced off all the walls surrounding us.
“Students and parents on the EMR programme not only learn how to snorkel or increase their snorkel skills, but go away with a fresh perspective on the conservation of our wet underwater friends” says Samara.
“The programme requires a 1:2 ratio in water, so many parents get involved, in fact the in water experiences are often as powerful for the parents as the students involved, the underwater comparison can leave a lasting impression on the students, usually resulting in an action plan to initiate marine conservation their local area.”
Okaihau student Jovan Beazley commented “ the most special thing for me was spending special time with my dad. We went snorkelling together at Matauri Bay and at the Poor Knights marine reserve”
Okaihau’s action plan is to hold a dinner for the community with presentations about their time on EMR and information about marine life & conservation, poetry, waiata and even a puppet show on Friday the 2nd December 5pm – 7pm at the Okaihau College Marae. A light dinner will be included, please bring a plate of food to share.
For more information contact Samara Nicholas 09 433 8205 or 021 036 2019
Experiencing Marine Reserves website www.emr.org.nz
The EMR programme, including marine resources and presentations, snorkel instruction, use of snorkel equipment and a coordinator to organise field trips are strategically offered free to Northland schools, we also offer cost price services when funding does not allow. The EMR services were provided to Okaihau school and community thanks to support from the Tindall Foundation. ASB Community Trust will support Northland delivery in 2012.