What is Seaweek and why do we celebrate it?
How much do you know about the seas surrounding our little Island?
Are you aware of just how important the ocean is to us humans, no matter where you live?
Whether you know very little or a lot, you’ll learn something valuable through the NZ Association for Environmental Education’ Seaweek event.
Every year, in the lead-up to Sea week, Black Cat Cruises pro-actively contribute to the cause in a variety of ways. Over the years we’ve hosted scientific nature cruises with leading marine mammal experts from the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust, offered special discounts to encourage more people out on the water, and even had a kids song written about the Hector’s Dolphins. We aim to reach all ages and inspire a love and promote a connection to the oceans that surround us. If we can teach just one person something about our ocean and the life within it, and convince them to take action in some way, we’ve achieved something worthwhile. That’s what we aim to do every day with our nature cruises and swimming with dolphins experiences, and that’s what we hope to do with this blog.
Aotearoa is the seabird capital of the world. Of the 360 seabird species found worldwide, 86 breed in New Zealand, including 38 which breed nowhere else.
Akaroa is home to many, such as the: variable oystercatcher with their distinctive long orange beaks. We often encounter them on our cruises, looking rather mischievous!
The white-fronted tern is noble and elegant, with a black cap and forked tail. These photogenic birds’ population has declined massively over the last 40 years and are now considered endangered!
The fluttering shearwater makes a distinctive noise with their wings; it’s just as likely you’ll hear them before you see them coming! Even more so because they often move in large flocks, ranging to over a thousand, feeding on fish or krill at the ocean’s surface.
And who could forget the world’s rarest penguin, the Yellow-eyed penguin? Only found in New Zealand, there are only 4000 yellow-eyed penguins left in the wild! Reaching a weight of 8.5kgs and height of 79cms, they’re about the size of a one-year-old child!
There are tons of fish in Akaroa Harbour. Fish keep the ocean birds’ and mammals’ bellies full, making them an essential part of the ecosystem. Professional and recreational fishers need to know the areas where they can fish, how they can fish, and which should be kept or thrown back into the ocean.
The Ministry for Primary Industries provides useful guidelines like this, which need to be referred to.
Spiny Dogfish are a type of small shark commonly found around New Zealand, including Akaroa Harbour. They also taste quite nice and are sold by fishers in Akaroa. The fillet is white with a mild, sweet flavour. The dogfish is a small but mighty predator, not afraid to take a jab at a passing fish.
Ever heard of a Red Gurnard? No? I hadn’t either, but here it is. It’s unsurprisingly quite red. Their redness has a use, they can startle predators by flashing their fins at them. They are known to grunt when caught by fishers hence ‘Gurnard’ which is old French for ‘grunter’.
Native to New Zealand waters are the Blue Moki. They can live for up to 30 years and grow up to 10 kg. Blue Moki are caught year-round off the east coast, by trawl and set nets. They feed on a variety of crabs, shellfish, and worms, which they suck from the sandy or muddy seafloor.
There’s also the distinct looking barracouta. Not only do they attack fishers and break lines, but they also contain many small bones and are embedded with long white parasitic worms.
If you’ve ever been to the Akaroa Fish n chip shop, you’ve surely heard of blue cod. Only found in New Zealand waters. Blue cod are easy to approach for divers, however, they are known to nip fingers and even ears. They can change sex from female to male and males are generally larger than females.
Finally of course, we have the animals most closely related to us humans; the different mammals that call Akaroa their home.
These warm-blooded creatures are different from birds because they produce live-offspring, as opposed to laying eggs.
The New Zealand fur seals are often found on our Black Cat nature cruise chilling on the rocks. They dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal. Female fur seals are known to (occasionally) dive deeper than 238 m, and for as long as 11 minutes. Males fight for territory and the ability to mate the females of the area. Their young are called “pups” which sounds an awful lot like “puppies” in case you needed any more proof that seals are the ‘dogs of the sea’. Check out this DOC article for more on fur seals, including a sound clip of fur seals during mating season.
And of course, this wouldn’t be a Black Cat Cruises blog without talking about the number one natural attraction of Akaroa- The Hectors Dolphins. The world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, only found in New Zealand. Their calves are the size of a rugby ball, and we take care to leave these young families alone as they have lots of important work to do. The Hectors dolphins are iconic for their rounded “mickey mouse” fins. They are curious and playful creatures when they’re not busy hunting in pods for squid, fish, and crustaceans. The Hector’s Dolphin populations declined hugely following the human occupation of New Zealand. And though things are getting better, more needs to be done.
Playing Our Part
Not only is it fascinating to learn about the ocean’s habitats, characteristics, and inhabitants, it is also extremely important. The vast majority of our oceans are open for exploitation by fishing, mining, oil, and gas companies. Seabird and marine mammal by-catch, habitat destruction, and overfishing are destroying our coasts. Notice I referred to the ocean and coasts of New Zealand as “ours”. It is part of humanity’s vanity to assume the environment we live in is owned by us. This thinking runs so deep it’s become a natural part of our language.
It is time we switch courses and help repair the damage we’ve caused. Organisations like Forest and Bird dedicate themselves to improving the situation and have played a part in advocating for full camera surveillance of all fishing boats operating on our coasts. This has just recently been proposed by the MPI. Check out their website, scroll to the bottom, and see all the ways you can help (there’s plenty to choose from).
Free Black Cat Cruises Seaweek Event
Last Year for Sea Week, we worked with local children’s music legend Music With Michal to write a song about Hector’s dolphins. A way to inspire the future generation of kiwi’s, and teach them about how rare, special and important they are. We launched them over a series of sold out Seaweek themed ‘Music with Michal’ cruises on board the Canterbury Cat.
We planned to repeat the same again this year, however with the current rise in Omicron across New Zealand we’ve opted for the safety of the families wishing to attend and moved the our event to a one off free live streamed concert. We are also excited to announce we have turned the song into it’s very own book!
The book is available to purchase online now and we are donating $2 from every book sold to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. BUT IT HERE
Wednesday 9th March. 9.30am – 10am
It’s a great way to get kids talking, singing and excited about the environment. Register to attend via this link.
Seaweek is always a great event, and each year they explore a cool theme. Last year was “Connecting with our Seas; Toi Moana Toi Tangata – highlighting the diverse connections and interactions we have with the sea.” They sell some pretty cool merchandise, 100% of which will go to supporting their cause. It’s a great way to help, and raise further awareness which is what sea week is all about! Check it out on this link here. While you’re there, check out the cool events they’ve got lined up on the main page!
Lastly, we recommend following these awesome organisations to keep up-to-date with conservational efforts:
#seaweek #akaroa #akaroawildlife #hectorsdolphins #conservation #celebratingourseas #nzaeeseaweek
by Josh Bingham