When you are at the beach this summer, don't be surprised if you're swimming next to a sea snake with a paddle for a tail, a big-headed-turtle, or a magnificently coloured flat-faced fish. New Zealand's got its share of weird and wonderful marine visitors. Several species of sea snake and turtle regularly reach our waters.
The shark with the hammer-shaped head (Sphyrna zygaena) is a big eater and is potentially dangerous to humans. It has been found in New Zealand coastal waters, in up to 110 metres of water, and on the continental shelf. It is more commonly seen around the North Island.
NIWA's Dr Michelle Kelly and a visiting scientist, Professor Jean Vacelet from Centre d'Oceanologie de Marseille, have recently discovered and described three "previously unknown species" of carnivorous sponges from the family Cladorhizidae.
The 'yeti crab' generated media attention worldwide when the first species was found around deep-sea hydrothermal vents off the Easter Islands at around 2200 m depth (Macpherson, Jones & Segonzac, 2005).
A historic agreement, aimed at improving country-to-country collaboration on marine research, observations and data management between New Zealand and Australia, has been signed in Canberra this morning.
"Planning on a sea-level rise of X?" is the title of NIWA principal scientist Dr Rob Bell's paper at the New Zealand Coastal Society Annual Conference in Nelson this week. Dr Bell is a key-note speaker at the event. "It's a play on words," he says. "There is no single number to plan for."
NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa will set sail for the Chatham Rise tonight to improve our understanding of how marine ecosystems affect commercially exploited fish, and how commercial fisheries affect the marine food-web. The Chatham Rise, a large plateau between the South Island and Chatham Islands, is our most productive fishing ground.
A recent OECD report describes New Zealand's water quality as 'good' relative to most OECD countries but says that it is deteriorating. This deterioration is due, in large part, to diffuse pollution from agriculture, says Dr Kevin Parris of the Trade and Agriculture Directorate, OECD in Paris, France. Dr Parris is a plenary speaker at the DIPCON conference, in Rotorua.
NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa has just completed a very successful voyage of habitats of significance for marine organisms and biodiversity.
"We were amazed by what we saw," says NIWA's Dr Mark Morrison, programme leader.
Over 42 days, split across two voyages, the Tangaroa worked its way down the country and back, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It surveyed habitat and biodiversity hotspots around New Zealand's expansive continental shelf.
Scientists completed a successful three-week field tagging trip in April 2011, where they tagged a record 27 great white sharks around the Titi (Muttonbird) Islands off the northeast coast of Stewart Island.
NIWA Chairman Chris Mace says New Zealand urgently needs a National Oceans Strategy, to sustainably manage and use its extensive marine resources to boost the economy.
"There is huge untapped potential in our oceans and coastal waters, and the Government has clearly indicated their intention to increase the use of these resources. Under the current global economic environment, I think that is prudent. But without an integrated oceans strategy, our ability to sustainably manage those resources will clearly be compromised."
A team of international scientists, led by NIWA Oceanographer Dr Philip Boyd, departs from Auckland on 6 June and sails towards the waters South of New Caledonia this week. They are onboard Research Vessel Tangaroa, for the second leg of the GEOTRACES programme: a ten-year international study of trace elements in the marine environment.
New Zealand is bang in the middle of the biggest and wildest waters on the planet: the Southern Ocean. Many of New Zealand’s coasts and coastal communities are already facing the impact of rising sea levels. Will the future see even bigger storms and waves, putting our increasingly intensive development of coastal areas dramatically at risk?
Ground-breaking research by NIWA and The University of Auckland, investigating the annual movements of New Zealand seabirds migrating within the Pacific Ocean, has revealed that populations are genetically distinct, and have been for centuries as a result of their differing migration behavior.
NIWA Oceanographer Dr Craig Stevens has returned, with stunning images and data, from a successful month-long research trip in Antarctica, where he led a team of international and New Zealand scientists.