NZ’s sea creatures revealed

WWF-New Zealand is launching an exciting new online resource that for the first time provides a gateway to all that’s known about life in New Zealand’s oceans.

The Treasures of the Sea: Nga Taonga a Tangaroa is a species-group by species-group guide to New Zealand’s marine life – from the bizarre feeding habits of the straptoothed whale, to the divorce rate of (usually) monogamous albatross.

The leading marine scientists on New Zealand’s biodiversity have pooled their knowledge to create the new online resource, which was edited by NIWA Prinicipal Scientist Dr Alison MacDiarmid.

The new microsite at will go live today after an official preview launch event at Te Papa yesterday for the marine science community of New Zealand.

At the event, WWF-New Zealand will reiterate its call for a national network of marine reserves, which the global conservation organisation says is vital to protecting New Zealand’s unique marine biodiversity, much of which is under threat from human activity.

New Zealand’s ocean is a globally significant hotspot of marine biodiversity and home to some of the world’s weirdest sea creatures – from the world’s largest spiny lobster to the strap-toothed whale, which is believed to catch its prey using suction.

Nearly half (44 per cent) of New Zealand marine life exists nowhere else on the blue planet but here in Aotearoa – and new species are being discovered all the time. But until WWF-New Zealand commissioned NIWA to create The Treasures of the Sea, the scientific information wasn’t easily accessible.

Chris Howe, Executive Director at WWF-New Zealand, commissioned the resource; he explains its significance: “The Treasures of the Sea: Ng Taonga a Tangaroa is a summary of New Zealand’s marine life – including how the creatures that live in our oceans are faring in an increasingly hostile environment.

The Treasures of the Sea is a significant achievement and will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in New Zealand’s marine biodiversity.

It’s a celebration of the amazing life in our oceans and it means that now, anyone with internet access can instantly find out about the creatures and plants that inhabit New Zealand’s seas.”

He continues: “It will also play an important role in protecting New Zealand’s marine biodiversity. Despite widespread recognition that New Zealand is a biodiversity hotspot of global signficance, the government’s record on marine conservation is pitiful.

“Our marine species are being seriously impaired by human activity – less than one per cent of our 4.2million square km of ocean is protected in marine reserves.

Scientific information is the foundation of conservation and now, this resource provides information that will assist good decisions for marine protection. It identifies in detail what wildlife is out there, what the threats are and what needs protecting.

It’s a huge undertaking and we believe this resource is the first of its kind in the world so we’d like to thank all the marine scientists involved in the project.”

Dr Alison MacDiarmid, NIWA Principal Scientist and editor of The Treasures of the Sea:Ng Taonga a Tangaroa comments: “A resource such as this will open up the enourmous variety of marine life to wider range of people and make them more aware of the threats and issues that face different groups of marine organisms.

Quite frankly, it also places before the policy makers the unavoidable truth of New Zealands responsibilities for wise management of our own marine biodiversity. Because many of our species occur nowhere else on the planet we are the ones who need to be their guardians.”