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EMR takes out supreme award

Experiencing Marine Reserves – Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust has been named Te Tohu Matua-Supreme Award winner of Northland Regional Council’s annual ‘Whakamānawa ā Taiao - Environmental Awards’.

EMR was  one of 47 entries received and was announced at a ceremony attended by about 200 people at Kerikeri’s Turner Centre on Thursday 27 May.

Whakamana te maunga

Whakamana te wai

He mauri o nga tangata
Nga mea katoa he pai
If we look after the water from the mountains to sea,
it will look after us.
It is our life force.


Image by Jess Burges

Salty 20 year celebration for EMR

Salty 20 year celebration for Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR)- Te Kura Moana  at the Poor Knights Islands with Dive! Tutukaka

This year’s twentieth anniversary competition trip Thanks to Dive! Tutukaka and the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation took place on the 14th May and included students from as far north as Waiharara and as far south as Rakiura - Stewart Island. Students are selected based on their action projects undertaken and enthusiasm they show when studying & experiencing the marine environment.

Celebrating 20 years

Water you doing on Friday 14th May? Join us for our 20 year anniversary dinner celebrating both the Experiencing Marine Reserves and Whitebait Connection Programmes.
Featuring presentations from students and community the evening will share some amazing success stories.

- $70 for supporters
- $35 for EMR/WBC coordinators and volunteers

Get your tickets via eventbrite!

- Complementary glass of bubbles on arrival
- Shared platter meals for dinner.
- Great items for silent auctions and raffle

We can't wait to sea you there for a whale of a night.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the special code to unloock discounted tickets for volunteers and coordinators

Eagle ray wins fish of the year!

Eagle ray - Whai repo - takes out Fish of the Year !

The eagle ray is representing the cartilaginous fish family for Fish of the Year. Yes, that means they have no hard bones in their body and are in the same family as sharks and other rays. Eagle rays can be easily distinguished from other rays in New Zealand by their diamond shape. They flap their wings at the same time, like a bird, while other rays, like stingrays, are round in shape and ripple their wings to move.

Distribution and habitat: Eagle rays are found all around New Zealand as well as the Kermadecs, Norfolk Island, Southern and Western Australia.  Their habitat ranges from sandy flats, seagrass beds, estuaries and bays as well as near rocky reefs. They usually prefer to hang out in shallow water, however they have been found as deep as 422 metres! 

Diet: Eagle rays mainly feed on benthic animals like crabs, clams and worms that are buried in the seabed. They use their unique mouths to crush prey to get at the soft bodies inside hard shells. They also have electro-sensory organs in their head in order to find their prey hidden in the sand, and using a jet of water they clear away the sand to expose their meal. This method of feeding is very noticable whilst snorkelling as it leaves large indentations (like craters) in the sand. 

Max length: 150 cm (fin to fin) 

 Breeding and behaviour: Eagle rays produce live young and can have litters of up to 20. They are usually 20 - 30 cm when born. The claspers on male eagle rays distinguish them from females making them relatively easy to tell apart. Females are generally larger than males.  

Fun facts: Eagle rays were originally thought to be endemic to New Zealand until it was discovered that the Australian eagle ray species was identical. For defence against threats, eagle rays have a venomous spine on their tails (like other ray species). Eagle rays are a favourite snack of orca.  

Fish of the Year 2021

Voting has closed.  Winners will be announced soon!

Vote for your ‘Fish of the Year’ HERE  to be in to win cool prizes and recognition for your favorite ika (fish)!


Check out our fun social media campaign


EMR in the media

Poor Knights Annual Competition Trip

Thirty two rangatahi and their whanau from all around Aotearoa rewarded with Poor Knights snorkel experience! 

The 19th annual EMR Poor Knights competition trip took place on Friday the 11th December. The trip was organised by Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) and made up of representative students from each school that participates in the programme from Northland and Auckland, as well as 2 representatives from the other 6 regions EMR is operating including Taranaki, Coromandel, Gisborne, Wellington, Nelson and Rakiura (Stewart Island). 

Whangateau Snorkel Day - In memory of the late Dr Roger Grace


We got lucky this weekend with the perfect window of weather for our Whangateau Snorkel Day on Sunday, held in memory of the late Dr Roger Grace. Roger was a founding trustee of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust and spent many hours in the estuary doing his PhD research in 1966, pioneering science by SCUBA diving. Last year the Roger Grace Memorial Fund was created to continue to make waves for marine conservation. Please donate today

78 participants joined us on Sunday to explore the mangrove forests and sandstone reefs of Whangateau harbour. Whilst making our way out to the reef, snorkellers spotted hairy crabs, curious mantis shrimps, filtering anemones and weaving snail highways. After crossing the sandy flats of the harbour the reef started to reveal itself, with draping Neptune's necklace and schools of parore and spotties. On our way back to shore we stopped by the mangroves so we could get up close and personal with these important ocean loving trees. We saw barnacles waving their fronds in mesmerising patterns and marvelled at the cave like structures formed by the trunks and roots of the mangroves.


The event provides an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of mangrove forests as fish nurseries and to prevent coastal erosion, while immersing them in the habitat. We also covered the cockle closure and what that marine protection means in relation to water clarity.

Huge thank you to The Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation for funding this event, to the Whangateau Holiday Park for providing accomodation for the volunteers and crew and of course to our amazing volunteers for guiding many new participants through the wonders of the Whangateau Harbour.

Let's get 10,000 kiwis under the water

Please help us to raise funds for our upcoming adventure activity safety audit accreditation and get 10,000 kiwis under the water!

The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme started in Taitokerau/Northland in 2001 with the idea of taking local schools to see unprotected marine areas and comparing them to a fully protected marine reserve. Seeing huge Tamure/snapper swimming by in a marine reserve has inspired thousands of kids to take action for the marine environment and exercise kaitiakitanga.

Since 2001, EMR has guided 70928 people through marine reserves and 132478 have been snorkelling with us all over Aotearoa. We offer community guided snorkel day events and school programmes throughout our nine regions.

Now, more than ever, we feel it's important for kiwi kids and their whanau to get out and experience what is under the sea, in their local backyard. We hope to inspire new marine conservation projects and underwater observations, but most importantly we hope that people will fall in love with ‘te moana’, the sea!


National Volunteer Week 2020

2020.06.14 MotuManawa LornaDoogan 08915This past summer EMR has been very lucky to have a large team of volunteers around Aotearoa to help us run our community events and school programmes. In the Auckland region alone we had 110 active volunteers who donated 1847 hours of their time. 

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