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emr logo jan 2016Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) was created by Samara Nicholas in 2001, with the support of Vince Kerr. Samara and Vince were excited about getting people involved in the ocean. Samara thought back to a time when she went snorkelling at Leigh Marine Reserve with the local primary school, and was buddied up with two young kids. The look on their faces when they saw a huge snapper swimming by inspired Samara to capture that experience in an education programme, and the EMR concept came to life.

Back in 2002, EMR recognised marine reserves are vitally important for the conservation of marine biodiversity for future generations, and provideing unique educational and inspirational opportunities (they still do!)The EMR education programme is an essential step towards improving public perceptions about marine conservation by providing information and experience. The programme sets a basic building block for the establishment of marine conservation areas around New Zealand. The young people of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and their attitudes will shape society. Therefore, marine education is vital, to protect marine resources and biodiversity for the future.

conceptEMR developed with a knowledgeable support network including Vince Kerr, the late Dr Roger Grace and Dr Bill Ballantine. Mountains to Sea Conservatioin Trust (then called Ngā Maunga ki te Moana Conservation Trust) was formed in 2002 as an umbrella organisation for the EMR and Whitebait Connection programmes.

We started with donated gear and equipment purchased from op shops. Darren Shields     was an early supporter of EMR, with our first proper equipment coming from Wildblue. Our equipment has had extreme advancments over the years. Early images (2002) used an underwater disposable  camera. Our early concept of Information - Experience - Action  remain the same today. EMR celebrated 20 years in 2021!  


how big2002 underwater2022  20 years emr


The following is a collection of stories from the EMR team

In Northland, the EMR team was out for dinner. The resturant  was full of locals and we had recently delivered the EMR programme to the local school. During the course of the evening, a young girl approached us with her father and they took it upon themselves to thank me for their marine reserve experience and welcome me again into their community. They said that they had thoroughly enjoyed their experience and plan to go back to Goat Island and take their friends – students and parents get empowered and passionate.

A school teacher had never been snorkelling before. Her school was inland so many of her students were also inexperienced. The teacher declined the opportunity to get into the water at the Whangarei harbour Marine Reserve, but was so inspired by her students after the day, she took the plunge at their next trip to the Goat Island marine reserve. The teachers was completely lost for words as we emerged from our snorkel. She was visibly blown away by what she had seen and said that the experience had strengthened her support for marine reserves – teachers get empowered and passionate too!

It was a sunny day in Northland and a school arrives at the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve. We set about delivering my safety and objectives briefing to the group. After Q&A time we split into our rotation groups and started getting kitted up. Whilst I was leaning over sorting masks and snorkels, a young student approached me and asked...

“So where are the nets”?

I replied “Ryan, there are no nets”.

“You mean, the fish could actually get out if they wanted to!!”

The student had assumed that the abundance of fish in a marine reserve was due to the presence of nets which would keep them in….he was clearly impressed and came to the conclusion that fish must really like marine reserves. The student later did the programme at intermediate where his understanding was extended even more and made a professional radio ad about the WHMR with local radio - EMR encourages awareness and participation in local marine reserves