MARINE EDUCATION SOCIETY OF AOTEAROA

Date: 1/2/2002

By Sioux Campbell

Having grouched previously in this column about the dearth of education information at boat shows, I was hugely cheered by the Bay of Plenty Boatshow held in Tauranga in November.  Not only was there an excellent Ministry of Fisheries stand in a prominent place at the main part of the show – it also won an award from the organisers.  There was plenty of really relevant information for boaties of all persuasions and the staff were actively engaged for most of the time I was there.  So congratulations all round, this is very much the kind of approach MESA encourages.

Congratulations too to NZ Underwater for launching your environmental membership option.   The more people there are working to sustain our marine biodiversity the better – remember MESA is there to help with a range of existing quality information resources and contacts.  By increasing our networking potential and education opportunities the gains can only be greater, both for the environment and users.   I see in the last edition of Dive Log that Survey Seahorse is still up and running, a fabulous and appealing project run by dive enthusiasts (and one you can participate in if you’re not a diver).  Good on you Western Underwater – sadly, I personally have only seen seahorses in aquariums but I keep hoping!!

Lastly I had a range of interesting experiences diving on the Great Barrier Reef in November.   With dire warnings to stay away from large boats ringing in my ears, I found myself aboard the very same thing so that my Mum could snorkel from a stable platform anchored off the reef while I dived.  Much to my surprise, the dive group was small, the level of professionalism in the guides high and the education content admirable.  It extended to environmental protection brochures to videos shown throughout the trip to the reef to plenty of underwater slate communication during our dives.  The next expedition was on a much smaller boat (standard NZ outing stuff).   Although there was plenty of attention to dive safety, the information content was far less and you could almost have been excused for thinking that interest in the teeming marine life did not really exist.   My last dive trip off Green Island probably fell somewhere between the others and it was rather a pity that fighting the extraordinary current precluded close examination of the reef!  What was truly great though (and again to my surprise) was a glass bottom boat tour across the island’s lagoon which featured true interest on behalf of the operator and a very good commentary.  During this half hour cruise we saw masses of coral, a plethora of different fish species and most excitingly, a turtle, which even surfaced to check us out.  Well worth it!

While the behaviour standards and restrictions for using the reef are doubtless well followed by its various commercial users, I strongly feel the education standards leave something to be desired.  Information in this sense is something for nothing – and it often sticks.

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