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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.

EMR started in Taitokerau/Northland in 2001 with just three schools and the idea of comparing unprotected marine areas to fully protected marine reserves. Water safety messages are embedded throughout our programme. Seeing huge Tamure/snapper swimming has inspired thousands of kids to take action for the marine environment and exercise kaitiakitanga - guardianship for their local beach or harbour.

In addition to the opportunity to represent their school or region for the EMR ACTION prize, we offer the EMR Ocean Art prize. The Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation supports this special prize for young kiwis that have experienced the marine environment with EMR and display that passion and experience through art. The Northland and Auckland delivery is thanks to Foundation North and the national expansion of EMR in the regions is supported by the Tindall Foundation.
“Action projects included removal of invasive seaweed, citizen science fish surveys, shellfish monitoring, wetland restoration, a mufti day and ocean disco fundraiser, presentations to parents, upcycling waste to furniture, murals and marine artwork on a double decker bus” says EMR founder Samara Nicholas.
We had 34 students and 29 guardians from 25 schools from 7 regions of Aotearoa including Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Gisborne, Wellington, Nelson and Rakiura (Stewart Island).
Special guests included EMR crew and students from the first competition trip twenty years ago. This time Cameron Pene experienced the Poor Knights with his daughter Dylan -Rose. Since 2002, we have taken representatives from 351 schools, totalling 500 students on this annual trip!

On board the vessel ‘Perfect Day’ our snorkel site this year was the stunning ‘Garden’s at Maroro Bay, part of the Poor Knights Islands that have been protected by no-take status since 1981. A commotion amongst the boat’s crew alerted Ben and Bryce Wigley from Kaingaroa School who were first on the scene for a glimpse of a sunfish before it headed for deeper water. They were treated to a face to face encounter with the charismatic fish and observed its interactions with a group of king fish.

The cave snorkelling experiences were particularly memorable this year. The conditions allowed safe snorkelling through the dark passages of the caves where vast schools of blue maomao lingered. Thousands of two spot demoiselles were feeding on the surface. Participants were delighted to see scorpion fish, black angel fish, massive snapper and friendly sandagers wrasse.

A pair of participants commented that their home looks out to the Poor Knights, but they had never before visited the islands. 98% of the Northlanders on board this trip had never been to the Poor Knights before and it was a 100% new experience for those from Auckland and the regions.
This is the third year we have offered the Darren Shields freediving representative prize, for a Northland high school student that shows talent for freediving, the inaugural prize was won by Croatia Rudolph and Te Ariki Flavell was the representative for 2020. Maia Harris was the representative for 2021 from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Tonga o Hokianga.
EMR has a sister programme called the Whitebait Connection, together we are Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust - celebrating 20 years!

Quotes from participants

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