Fish takes worry teens
The thrill of watching dolphins streaking along on the bow wave, then a feeding frenzy with seabirds dive bombing fish in the Hauraki Gulf is not a usual school trip.
The Whale and Dolphin Explorer outing was an exciting end to a four-day camp on Motutapu Island for students Nadine Tupp and Anja Hamelmann of Rodney College, along with Jedd Blennerhassett and Mya Lawrence of Mahurangi College.
They were among a group of students from across the region taking part in the MAD marine conservation programme. It's a joint venture by the Department of Conservation and the Auckland Council.
Plenty of swimming, snorkelling and kayaking was offered at the camp, and students also learned from experts about environmental problems facing the Hauraki Gulf.
Reducing fishing was seen as important by all students, along with the need to balance recreational and commercial fishing.
Fifteen-year-old Nadine regularly fishes and kayaks on the Kaipara Harbour.
"Recreational fishing is an important part of life for many, so people shouldn't be excluded from fishing in the gulf," she says.
"Commercial fishing is also important but it needs to be managed better with clear and transparent governing by the Ministry of Primary Industries. They need to tidy up their act."
Enjoying boating, fishing and scuba diving, 14-year-old Anja Hamelmann is a bit of a fish herself. Pollution is degrading water quality with commercial fishing taking too much and skewing the food chain, she says.
"In 50 years' time I'd like to see the gulf looking much more like it was before we started taking fish," she says.
While not a fisherman, living at Snells Beach has seen 13-year-old Jedd get into boating.
The Leigh marine reserve has also made him appreciate how large fish grow in reserves compared to outside them.
Lowering bag limits on recreational fishing and seriously reducing the commercial fishing take are needed, Jedd says. Jedd wants to see more marine education aimed at younger pupils.
"Kids just don't care as much by the time they get to college."
Long-term environmental change can only come when businesses become more sustainability focused, he says.
Living close to the Tawharanui Marine Reserve, Mya says she immediately noticed how low fish numbers at Motutapu were in comparison.
She was also concerned about over-fishing, which she felt spatial planning could help resolve along with more marine reserves. The litter ending up in the gulf struck a chord with the 12-year-old.
Mya was inspired by whale expert Rochelle Constantine's talk on whales and Maui's dolphins.
Dr Constantine, of the University of Auckland, helped hunt out likely feeding spots that would attract whales and dolphins.