Shark exploration – Last hapuku? Dumping of toxic waste continues

I cannot commence writing this editorial without mentioning the incomprehensible massacre that occurred in Christchurch on Friday the 15th March in this beautiful country we call home.

On behalf of the DIVE Pacific magazine team and I’m sure all our readers and advertisers, we sincerely wish peace and a steady loving rebuilding of those families whose lives were ripped apart by this senseless act.

I recently passed through Auckland and Melbourne International airports and was taken aback by a product promotion by Southpole Oceanking, a Melbourne-based company established in 1998. Products derived from sharks were in full view.

The company is big into selling so-called health and wellbeing products. The product range of what may assist you living a healthier life is impressive. To give you an idea of the broad range of concoctions available there is thistle milk, essence of kangaroo, Antarctic krill oil, plus of course New Zealand’s renowned Manuka honey, even as a toothpaste!

One of the products being highlighted at the airports was Deep Ocean Shark Squalene.

You have to give their marketing guys top marks for the line: “All the sharks to produce this natural and pure squalene are obtained from the most pollution free deep ocean.”

I was sickened by this promotion.

As environmental groups and Governments grapple with the senseless yearly slaughter of millions of sharks for their fins, here in New Zealand, Australia and an ever-expanding Asian market, Southpole Oceanking is contributing to the relentless pressure for shark carcases to manufacture mythical wellbeing products!

Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. Let’s hope we hear from Southpole Oceanking re what type of shark and which “pollution-free deep ocean” they are caught in?

Recently I have been communicating with my old friend Wade Doak. I guess like most divers of our era, we started our diving by spearfishing.

Spearing a fish in the ‘60s was really not that hard due to the number of fish we encountered.

It is very sobering discussing with Wade now how the marine life and the marine ecosystem has been smashed by human greed and activities on land in our short lifetime.

Wade reminisced of the days when hapuku were in abundance in northern New Zealand waters. They are now virtually extinct. Ask any diver today who has been diving for 20 years, how many hapuku has he/ she seen?

Just a wee peek into Wade’s online book, Lament for the Hapuku gives you a glimpse of what it was like in the ‘60s and ‘70s: In late June 1970 a large grotto at the Pinnacles (part of the Poor Knights Marine Reserve) that Kelly Tarlton and I called The Slot, harboured a spawning group of up to 30 hapuku, ranging in size from 10 to 60kg. The biggest would have measured 1.8m.

Renowned conservationist Dr Roger Grace commented in 2018 on Facebook:

I believe the devastating consequences have already been realised. With hapuku down to probably less than 5% of its pre-fished biomass, and now extinct in less than 100 metres of water, populations of this magnificent animal are just a shadow of what they once were. All because of ignorance, greed and poor fisheries management. Few would admit it.

Why haven’t I got a nice hapuku photo to post? Because they are now virtually impossible to photograph! Wade has the best hapuku photo in existence and it is probably about 50 years old.

Wade also discussed the impact of water-carried sediment smothering inshore reefs. The dredging of Auckland’s harbour entrance to allow larger cargo and cruise ships and housing developments beside the coast and waterways has had an immense impact on the reefs within the Hauraki Gulf’s so called “Marine Park”.

Wade brought to my attention the proposed plan to suck up the toxic sludge below Auckland’s marinas and to dump this contaminated material at sea a few kilometres off the east coast of Great Barrier Island. Local residents are challenging this proposed dumping. It’s NOT rocket science to recognize the impacts that dumped dredging material has on the marine environment. The Hauraki Gulf’s reefs are covered in “dust”. You only have to brush the reef top to create a cloud of “dust”.

The survey of a reef using a remote controlled vehicle (ROV) off Great Barrier in May 2002 revealed stunning glass sponges, black coral and Lord Howe coralfish within a pristine reef full spectacular life. What a tragedy it would be to smother this marine treasure in toxic silt from the Auckland’s marinas.

Have not the Council/authorities learned anything re the damage the inner gulf has suffered by mismanagement of dredging and land and storm water runoff into the gulf?

Sadly, it’s the old mentality – out of sight, out of mind. The general public really have no idea what is going on and, if they did, they are most likely too busy with their own personal issues to voice their opinion.

Let’s hope the people on Great Barrier Island win this battle as we and the marine environment all benefit from a healthy biomass.

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Dave Moran
Editor at Large

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