New Zealanders love their coast. It is central to the Kiwi way of life, and yet it is under pressure. Human activities on both land and at sea have degraded and destroyed shellfish beds, a vital ecological component of our marine environment. But, thanks to a generous donation from the McCrae family, scientists at the Institute of Marine Science are embarking on an ambitious project to help understand the benefits of shellfish beds and restore them around New Zealand’s coasts.
The impact of modern life is wiping out the very elements of our countryside that make us uniquely Kiwi-made. New Zealand was the last significant landmass on earth to be colonised by humans. That puts us in a unique position to become world leaders in restoration and conservation of our natural environment.
Shellfish beds once thrived around New Zealand’s coasts. Mussel beds once carpeted the seafloor of the Hauraki Gulf across an area larger than Wellington City. The shellfish beds filtered sediments and contaminants from seawater, provided juvenile fish nurseries, stabilised the seabed and greatly enhanced biodiversity. Yet within New Zealand, and globally, active restoration of coastal ecosystems is limited.
“New Zealanders recognise there is a problem but don’t know how to tackle it. We want to change that,” says Professor Simon Thrush, the Institute of Marine Science’s director.
His team is developing practical out-planting techniques for ecologically important shellfish. They also aim to develop an educational toolkit to spur community-led coastal conservation.
Simon believes this powerful combination of high quality science and community initiatives will transform current international best practice and empower New Zealanders to become global leaders in community-led marine restoration.
Ian McCrae is the founder and CEO of Orion Health, a global e-health software company, based in Auckland, which has a long-standing history of providing vital funding for research at the University. This latest gift was made with the intention of enabling McCrae family members to experience first-hand, the impact of their philanthropic vision.
We thank the McCrae family for this generous donation, which will act as a catalyst to secure further funding and support from like-minded individuals and organisations.
Pictured above from left: Prof. Simon Thrush, Ian McCrae and McCrae family members.