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Annual Poor Knights Trip 2022


Whole group photo


All the students with their whānau on the bow of Perfect Day in front of Rikoriko Cave on Aorangi at the Poor Knights marine reserve - Image by Lorna Doogan.

Once in a lifetime snorkel experience

Full album can be found here.

The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) Te Kura Moana annual Poor Knights competition trip is sponsored by to Dive! Tutukaka and the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation took place on Friday 13th May. Students came from as far north as Kerikeri and as far south as the Caitlins - Otago. Students are selected based on their action projects undertaken and enthusiasm they show when studying & experiencing the marine environment. The national delivery of EMR is supported by the Tindall Foundation.
EMR started in Tai Tokerau/Northland in 2001 with just three schools and the idea of comparing unprotected marine areas to fully protected marine reserves. Water safety messages are embedded throughout our programme. Seeing huge tāmure/snapper swimming has inspired thousands of kids to take action for the marine environment and exercise kaitiakitanga - guardianship for their local beach or harbour.

In addition to the opportunity to represent their school or region for the EMR ACTION prize, we offer the EMR Ocean Art prize. The Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation supports this special prize for young kiwis that have experienced the marine environment with EMR and display that passion and experience through art.

 PK trip 2022 Lorna Doogan 3

Snapper at Trevor’s Rocks - Image by Lorna Doogan

“Action projects included growing seaweed with the Love Rimirimu project in Wellington, marine biodiversity monitoring, using technology to increase awareness with on-line games, riparian planting and weed control, inanga spawning monitoring, organising community beach clean ups, mentoring younger students to become ocean kaitiaki and conducting research to address catchment wide sedimentation” says EMR founder Samara Nicholas.
For this year's trip we had 31 students and 29 guardians from 22 schools from 8 regions of Aotearoa including Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Gisborne, Wellington, Nelson, Hauraki and Otago.

Since 2002, we have taken representatives from 373 schools, totalling 531 students on this annual trip! Special guests on the day included our friends from Live Ocean and Vanessa Grace with her step son. The Grace’s represent the amazing legacy and life long work for marine conservation by the late Dr Roger Grace.
This is the fourth year we have offered the Darren Shields - Wettie freediving representative prize, for a Northland high school student that shows talent for freediving. This year's winner was Kiani Christie from Whangarei Girls High School.

Travelling on the vessel ‘Perfect Day’ our snorkel site this year, were the Gardens at Maroro Bay. This part of the Poor Knights Islands has been protected by a no-take status since 1981. Participants were delighted to see thousands of two spot demoiselles, black angel fish, snapper galore and the friendly sandagers wrasse. Conditions were like an aquarium on the day!
90% of the Northland students on board had never been to the Poor Knights before and it was a 100% new experience for those students from all other regions.

PK trip 2022 Lorna Doogan Rob and Bronson I have a Dream

Northland - I Have a Dream representatives Rob and Bronson snorkelling over Trevors Rocks – Image by Lorna Doogan.

Quotes from Poor Knights Comp Trip Participants 

Anna Lightbody (student)
"This was might first trip to the Poor Knights Marine Reserve. Initially I was unsure of getting in the water but Sophie helped me heaps, and got me a good wetsuit and a hot drink and I was ready. I saw lots of fish!"

Agnus Gibson (student) and Colin Gibson (Dad) 
"This was my first time here, but my Dad has been once before. My favourite thing was seeing all the fish, especially the big blue ones! We snorkelled a couple of times and the second time we went out we used to the ID guides to work out what the fish were. I really liked doing rolly pollies on the magic aqua carpet!"

Ihaka Dunn (student) - Te Tai Tokerau 
My favourite thing about this trip was seeing the bigger fish. The water was super clear! I liked the canoe, it was funny when I fell off.

Tony (Dad of William) - Te Tai Tokerau 
My favourite thing about today was being able to be here with my son.

William (student) - Te Tai Tokerau
My highlight? The seals! The fish! The cave! The water was so clear, I could see the fish far away.

Bronson (student) Te Tai Tokerau
I liked the wavey ride out. We were laughing, it was the funest thing. Yeah I would definitely come back here again.

Emma Johnson (student) 
It was really cool. The fish were a lot bigger than we expected. I loved the snorkelling because of all the colours. I liked the cave, it was bigger than I expected. It was funny falling off the paddle boards.

Fiona Johnson (Emma's mum)
I can tick that off my bucket list! It was quite cool when all the trevally schooled around the back of the boat at the end.

Freya Beaton (student) with Heather (mum)
Our favourite thing was seeing the comb jellies, with all their flashing lights on the side. While we were in the water Sophie dove under us with the light on from her camera. It was awesome watching all the snapper, big trevally, and kingfish rush in to check it out. We really appreciated having the boogie boards to float around with. It made us feel more comfortable. We also enjoyed going in the cave.

Taikura Kahukiwa (student) and Kelly (dad)
This was our first time out here. It felt cool to snorkel and swim with all the fish and see them up close.

Jago (student) and Andy (dad)
We saw a stingray! It was white and light grey. I pointed it out to daddy and then it swam away.

Andy: We are avid EMR participants, and it's been amazing seeing the change in Jago since the first year he started participating to now. He's so much more confident swimming around in the water and it's thanks to this program.

Charlise Neilson (student) and Jeremy Nielson (dad) - Tamaki Makaurau.
I really enjoyed seeing the snapper and getting into the cave. Before hopping in I was excited and curious. I'm a little bit sad now that today is nearly over. Going to places like this makes me want to take care of our beach at home. It's really murky there, and there's no fish, but here you can see heaps! We need more filter feeders and to plant more trees at home to make it better.

Riana Lane (student)
I always love seeing how big the fish are compared to everywhere else - they're giant! It's amazing what happens when you give nature a fighting chance, when we just take our hands off it for a second. I've been investigating the sustainability of the fish we eat at home, and found that the supermarkets really didn't want to tell us anything about their fish sources which makes me think they aren't very sustainable. Now we only get our fish from a local fish monger who is open and honest about where his fish comes from, and is more sustainable. We also eat a lot less fish at home now than we used to.

Summer (student )and Elliot (student) first time at the poor knights except summer has been before.
We loved seeing all the fish, the diversity was crazy! And they just came straight up to you. They were almost docile and friendly. Seeing places like this makes me think about how this should be implemented elsewhere. We should see this more. It makes me think about what the oceans used to be like. It made me really happy to see all the fish just living their best life.

Daniel and Alex 
I loved the snorkelling! Especially seeing all the different kinds of fish. Goat island is snapper, snapper, snapper, but this was another level! I'm amazed there is so much out there. It's like being in a real life nature documentary!

Cairo (student) and Martin (dad)
Dad: Today was Cairo's second ever time snorkeling! It was amazing seeing Cairo floating without the board for the first time.
Cairo: It was fun! I loved the snorkelling and kayaking equally.

Emma (student) and Jackie Muir (mum) - Taranaki
The different environment to Taranaki was just so cool. I felt just like, WOW! All the colourful seaweed and rocks and fish and stuff was so cool. The visibility too, because we get very murky water down our way. It feels good to be recognised, but the work hasn't finished when we return. We'd like to talk to newspaper people and share our experiences, tell people, if you get the opportunity, go fo it! It was so cool. I think if we can encourage everybody to do their bit, it'll make things better for the ocean, the sea life, the whole environment. The whole program has been a great opportunity. The sponsors and Samara are amazing to create this opportunity to raise awareness.

Jackie - Being able to have one on one conversations with the sponsors and connect on a personal level was a special thing. I think the importance of looking after the environment from the age you can walk and seeing that marine protection and recognising the impact we have as humans is huge, that's the value this program brings.

Claudia (student) and Jacqui (mum) - Taranaki 
I loved seeing the variety of fish we dont get to see anywhere else, and the size of the fish. They were massive! The layers in the ecosystem, that blueness! We are so fortunate to see all of this in our own backyard. It's also nice to get recognition and have the opportunity for other people to see the work we've been doing.
Mum: These competitions provide the opportunity for learning and broadening of horizons. The experience for young people and embedding the knowledge is so important. We were surprised at the massive age range of the student reps too. They've all put in so much work.

Toby (student) and Simone Wallace (mum) - Te Tai Rawhiti / Gisbourne
Simone: This is has been pretty awesome. I'm really happy for him to be recognised for the work he's done. He really likes his art work and was quite proud of it so it was nice for him to get picked. The snorkelling, you can't even describe it. It's blown my mind. The colours, the number of fish, how firledly they were. The snapper followed us around. I think we need to do a family trip and bring everyone here. It makes us want to go home and protect what we have there. This program brings awareness and inspires people to hopefully live more sustainably. It opens their eyes to the things they very rarely get to experience.
Toby: I was happy, and excited and pleased. I wasn't nervous at all. The fish were beautiful. My favourite part was seeing the sandaggers wrasse becasue I'd never seen one before and I'd learned about it and how it can change from female to male.

Kingi Caird (student) and Jimmy Caird (dad) - Riuwaka
It was so much warmer than the top of the south island. There were way more tropical fish. Lot's of colourful fish. It made me so happy! At first I was a little bit nervous but then it was just fun and I loved it. The hood kept me warm in the water. My favourite part was the tonnes of huge snapper, and the kingi's were really cool. When we got the call that I was coming on this trip I was so excited, like happy tears, so happy.
Jimmy - I feel privileged and honoured. The work that Kingi did was definitely a team effort too. We are very proud of all of them. That first moment of hopping in the water blew me away. And the clarity, until you're immersed in it you don't understand. A big highlight was the butterfly perch and demoiselles in their thousands. This program is invaluable really, you can't put a price on it. These sorts of life experiences, especially for this generation... where we are heading with the planet, it can feel scarey. But this generation, and these kids here, they give us hope, and it's really important to get them out to these places to see what is still here and what can be achieved.

Kelia Buckland (student) Kirilee (mum) - Riuwaka
K: I felt amazed at how many fish there were and how beautiful it was. I was very excited, but also a little bit nervous. But that changed after I saw all the fish. My favourite thing was diving down and swimming through the big schools of little fish. It's kinda weird, I never thought I'd get recognition for making a picture book. But I'm very happy about it.
Mum: It's pretty awesome. You see the pictures and you know there's going to be a lot of fish but when you're there and you're in the water it's so amazing. It's been on our wishlist for a very long time. One of the reasons we moved to Nelson was so our kids could get these sorts of opportuntities that they weren't getting on the west coast. And this is exactly it. We're super proud of Kelia. When we found out she had won we were blown away. It was also really great seeing all the reactions from people to Kelias book, everyone loved it. I hope this trip will get bigger and bigger and continue on long into the future so more kids will get to go.

Nehuen Valdez Morrison (student) and Rosie Morrison (mum) - Te Tai Rawhti/ Gisbourne
You can see thousands and thousands of fish! They're not even scared of you. I nearly touched a snappers tail. I felt facinated by the fish. I feel happy that I got to come here and very grateful!
Rosie - It was my first time ever snorkelling. It was like being inside a nature documentary, the light shining, the blues and the fish just doing their own thing. It was surreal. The opportunity to come here is unheard of for me. I never expected this would be something we could do. I've loved seeing how he has responded to the whole experience. Going back to what they've done at school, and how that impacts their thinking and lives. We'll go back and share our experiences and I hope that opens other peoples minds. It has helped me to know that our actions really do matter.

Jade (student) and Riki (dad) - Caitlans 
It was cool. My favourite moment was seeing my dad in the water. It was cool seeing how many big kina there were. Ehara taku toa i te toa taki tahi, he toa taki tini. The work that we do to care for the environment is a collective effort, and that's what is needed to care for the environment.
dad: It's awesome, I'm a very very proud dad. Jade's speech at the dinner last night was a stand out moment for me. These programs are important because they help to channel our kids to take care of the marine environment.

Hemaima (student) and Anaru (dad)- Te Whanganui a Tara
"It was so cool! My favourite thing about the trip was seeing all the fishes. There was a lot of fishes I hadn't seen before. They were super friendly and came right up to me! It was really fun going on the boat. I was so excited, then I got in the water and I felt super lucky to be here"
Anaru: The highlight for me was definitely the diving out at The Poor Knights. It was just beautiful seeing that. The second highlight was the activities done on Day 2. Micro searching was lots of fun, going on our group walk, and diving in Whale Bay was a blast. I also want to say how lovely it was to have you Liz and Samara with us. Liz and Samara were really easy to talk to and made us feel at home. It made what was a new experience so much more comfortable. We really enjoyed meeting all of the other whānau and forming new friendships. Everyone made a big effort to get to know each other which meant we all gelled as a group really well.

Greta Bond (student) and mum - Te Whanganui a Tara
"I really liked going over the waves on the boat on the way here. I felt happy and really excited to get in the water and snorkel. It's hard to explain how cool it was. I didn't think there was going to be that many fish! I thought there would be some, but not HEAPS. I liked how clear it was and how much warmer it was. It had heaps more fish and it was really deep and you could see the bottom and all the different kinds of seaweed. I liked how the snapper were all shimmery. There was a curtain of trevally around the boat and they weren't scared of us. I eyeballed them, that was one of my goals. I liked the pink wrasse that pulled a funny face at me. It was cool learning about them. I thought they'd be boring colours but they were magnificent! I really liked the big schools of demoiselles too. I'll definitely keep in touch with all the new friends I've made on this trip too. Especially Hemaima."
Greta's mum "I loved going in the cave, it was so surreal. The moment you jumped in the water it was alive! I liked that there was such a big space and we had the freedom to explore together. We were quite stunned that Greta got chosen, it was a whirlwind. But we are very proud of her. The trip overall has been really great, lots of interesting info and facts and great pace for everyone. The whole crew have been really patient and caring. It's been managed really well."

Sophia Niblock (student) and Simon (dad)- Otepoti 
It's been suuch and incredible experience to get out, be in the environment, and see all the fish, and meet lots of wonderful, different and interesting people along the way. The highlight for me was definitely seeing all the fish and being in a different environment from what I'm used to, being around people with a wealth of marine knowledge. Thank you to EMR for all that you do, and for allowing us to come out and get these opportunities that we haven't had before. I feel very privelidged.
Simon: The vis was fantastic. I could see Sophia kicking underwater and realised she was 30m away. Great to see all the marine life. It was amazing seeing these big snapper and the big trevally and that number of tiny kingfish! It was great to see all the marine life! I need to convince my wife to do this. EMR and MTS - they're just wonderful. These experiences are life changing. There is so much need out there for people to learn to appreciate how wonderful nature is, and how interconnected we all are to it.

Zander Curnow (student) and Dave (dad) - Thames
I feel awesome! I was super cool being in the water with all the fish. We went out to the pinnacles and saw all the big snapper. There was all sorts of fish and kina. I was really proud to get to come here. When I got picked, the whole town heard about it and everyone was talking about it. Thanks for all the support and the trips we've been on.
Dave: I loved seeing the abundance of life in the reserve and seeing the enjoyment, energy and excitement from everyone. Right from the get go everyone was so amped for it.
The awareness that this trip brings is massive. Everyone back home has been talking about it, and it's raised awareness for the EMR program, and what it's about. It gets those messages out to back home. It also gives kids the opportunity to express themselves. There was such a massive range of ways the kids have expressed themselves. It great for their self esteem and their self confidence. I'd like to extend a massive thanks to EMR and all the sponsors and the many hours of coordination. Its an amazing priveledge. 

Daniel Vaughan (student) and Grant (dad) - Whitianga 
I was excited to come here. It was really fun. I liked diving down and seeing all the fish. I saw and eagle ray, it was so close I could have dived down and touched it. I also saw a really cool jellyfish that was drifiting along and had flashing lights on the side.
Grant: My first look underwater was a shock! The clarity of the water was a stand out thing, so different to back home. Daniel has really blown me away with the time and effort he put into his art work. He spent days on it, the research he did and the way he portrayed the fish. I was super impressed and really happy for him that he got selected.

Student list 2022
Riverview School - Jago Rogerson
Whangarei Girls High School (WGHS) - Riana Lane
Whangarei Girls High School (WGHS) - Summer Adams
Whangarei Girls High School (WGHS)- Elliot Christy
Whangarei Girls High School (WGHS) - Emma Johnson
Whangarei Girls High School (WGHS) - Kiani Christie
Otangarei Primary School -Ihaka Dunn
Kamo Primary - Taikura Kahukiwa
Waipu Primary - Freya Beaton
Portland Primary School - Cairo Tomars
I Had A Dream - Bronson Paewhenua
I Had A Dream - William Tamihana-Franks

Belmont Intermediate - Daniel Feng
Meadowbank - Xinlai Zhang
Meadowbank - Finn Walker
Orakei - Charlise Neilson
Royal Oak - Eli Jones
Royal Oak - Anna Lightbody
Warkworth Primary School - Agnus Gibson

Makauri Rural Primary School - Toby Wallace
Te Wharau School - Nehuen Morrison

Highlands Intermediate - Claudia Brock
Highlands Intermediate - Emma Muir

Kelburn School - Greta Bond
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna - Hemaima-te-wai MacDougall

Riwaka School - Kelia May Buckland
Riwaka School - Kingi Caird

Parawai school - Zander Allan Curnow
Mercury Bay Area School - Daniel Vaughn

Otago University (18) - Sophia Niblock
Caitlins School - Jade Gutsell


Te Ika o Te Tau - Fish of the Year 2022 Winner!

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We are super excited to announce the winners of EMR's 2022 Te Ika o Te Tau competition! We had a whopping 781 submissions come in for fish of the year!
Our 2022 winner is once again the whai repo (eagle ray, Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) who took the lead with a huge 193 votes! In second place, a new addition for 2022, the endearing, endangered manaia (big bellied seahorse - Hippocampus abdominalis) who took out the runner-up spot with 145 votes! Coming in close third was our favourite freshwater friend - tuna (Long/short finned eel, Anguilla spp.) with 144 votes!
We are thrilled to see so much love for our endangered manaia and freshwater eels! Our runner-up, manaia, is New Zealand's only seahorse species, and are under threat from pollution and habitat degradation. But hope is not lost! With mussel and kelp restoration and the establishment of 'seahorse hotels' we can help protect our seahorse species by providing them with healthy habitats! You can find out more about our amazing manaia here!
Thank you so much to everyone for your votes and we hope you learnt some fun facts along the way. We received some very cool ika suggestions for Te Ika o Te Tau 2023 so keep your eyes peeled for some cool critters coming in next year's competition! Who will steal whai repos spot for 2023? Prize winners will be announced on Thursday 7th April via facebook and email.
Many thanks to our supporters of Fish of the Year, Seaweek, Wilderlab NZ Ltd, Northland Regional Council, Wettie Spearfishing & Wetsuits and Charlie Thomas (Charlie's Art)!

Te Ika o Te Tau - Colouring competition

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It's time for a Seaweek competition!

To celebrate Te Ika o Te tau - Fish of the Year we are running a colouring/art competition. Use our awesome colouring sheet linked below or get creative and draw your own favourite ika. You can send your creations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to go in the draw to win some jawsome prizes! 



Ages 3-6

Ages 7-12

Ages 13-16

Ages 16 and above 


How to enter: 

Send your finished colouring sheet or your own creation to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Make sure to include your name and age to qualify for a prize.

Competition closes on the 31st March, so start getting creative!! 


Screen Shot 2022 03 07 at 9.56.50 AMScreen Shot 2022 03 07 at 9.58.21 AM

 Printable colouring sheet                                                Blank template for your own creation                            



Don't forget to also vote for your favourite ika by visiting


Fish of the year compilation 2022





Te Ika o Te Tau - Fish of the Year 2022




Morena! Today marks the first day of SeaWeek 2022! We are super excited to announce that our annual Te Ika o Te Tau - Fish of the Year competition has launched for 2022! To raise awareness for our fantastic local ika here in Aotearoa we need your help! Check out our fish at and vote for your favourite! Vote for up to three fish and go in the draw to win some awesome prizes! Over the next 3 weeks we will be showcasing some of our favourite ika who are up for the title. Whai repo (Eagle rays), were our 2021 winners, who will be swimming into the winning spot this year?

Prizes to announced soon! Head to our facebook page and instagram to follow the voting race to see what prizes are up for grabs! 



Vote here




Fish of the year compilation 2022


Te Tohu Matua Supreme Award - video

Back in May 2021 Experiencing Marine Reserves – Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust was named Te Tohu Matua-Supreme Award winner of Northland Regional Council’s annual ‘Whakamānawa ā Taiao - Environmental Awards’.

Check out the video clip for our award!


EMR was one of 47 entries received and was announced at a ceremony attended by about 200 people at Kerikeri’s Turner Centre on Thursday 27 May.

Whakamana te maunga

Whakamana te wai

He mauri o nga tangata
Nga mea katoa he pai

If we look after the water from the mountains to sea,
it will look after us.
It is our life force.

Meri Kirihimete

Meri Kirihimete e te whānau,

From the team at Te Kura Moana - Experiencing Marine Reserves we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you all very much for your support through this tough and chaotic year, despite it's challenges we have still been able to achieve a lot, and that would not have been possible without everyones help.

We hope you enjoy getting out and exploring the beautiful moana over the xmas break. When you are snorkelling this summer don't forget to go with a buddy, take a dive flag, respect local marine protected areas and only take enough kaimoana for the table.

Our team will also be taking a break from social media from the 23rd December to 4th January. We look forward to reconnecting with you all in the New Year.

Kia pai tō wā whakatā - Have a great holiday!

EMR xmas banner


IKA Feature - Crested Weedfish!

Weedfish KeyImage1


Its conservation week  and we are celebrating the release of the new Underwater Shortdoc called "The Weedfish". The story was produced for Shortdoc platform “Loading Docs” and is about two underwater photographers, Crispin and Irene Middleton from Northland, who embark on a wild search for the Crested Weedfish. Their goal; capturing a powerful photo of this elusive fish before its home is damaged beyond repair. Taking the viewer on a cool underwater journey, showcasing the beauty of the New Zealand ocean as well as the increasing impacts we have on this huge but fragile ecosystem. We all know the oceans are under threat but we need to take more action now to preserve its beauty for future generations! 


To support the release of this brand new Shortdoc we have created a fun activity sheet to help you learn about this cryptic ika. Check out the video below to help you fill out the activity sheet and get you thinking about how we look after this little ika's key habitat. For those that complete the activity sheet you can send your finished product to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to go in the draw to win a Wettie mask and snorkel!



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Image credit: Crispin Middleton


The Weedfish

The hunt for an elusive fish in New Zealand’s disappearing kelp forests sends two marine scientists on a deep underwater dive.

Our waters are under threat. In a bold attempt to defend them, two marine researchers and photographers embark on a wild search for the Crested Weedfish. The goal, capture a powerful photo of the rarely-seen fish before its home is damaged beyond repair.

Director: Matt Silcock/Aart van Dijk | Producer: Zoe-Rose Herbert








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Printable version of activity sheet 



Ika feature - colouring competition

Ika feature whai repo

It's time for a lockdown competition!

To highlight our 'fish of the year' winner, whai repo (eagle rays), as well as the other amazing ika of Aotearoa we are starting Ika Feature. We will share fun facts about our amazing underwater friends so we can all gain a greater appreciation of their critical role in our oceans. To kick start this we are running a colouring competition and giving away some fun prizes to the winners of each age category (listed below). 



Ages 3-6

Ages 7-12

Ages 13-16

Ages 16 and above 


How to enter: 

Send your finished colouring sheet or your own whai repo inspired creation to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or use the hashtag #EMRikafeature. Make sure to include you name and age to qualify for a prize.

Competition closes on the 5th September at 5pm, so start getting creative!! 


Whai repo (eagle ray) fun facts: 

  • They are part of the cartilaginous fish family. That means they have no hard bones in their body and are in the same family as sharks and other rays. 
  • For defence against threats they have a venomous spine on their tails (like other ray species).
  • Females are generally larger than males.
  • Whai repo can be easily distinguished from other rays in New Zealand by their diamond shape. They flap their wings at the same time, like a bird, while other rays, like stingrays, are round in shape and ripple their wings to move.
  • They are a favourite snack of orca.
  • Originally thought to be endemic to New Zealand, until it was discovered that the Australian eagle ray species was identical.

If you know of any other te reo māori names for the ika we feature please let us know by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or comment on our social media posts.  


Ika Feature wahi repo Colouring in

Printable whai repo colouring sheet 

EMR takes out supreme award

Experiencing Marine Reserves – Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust has been named Te Tohu Matua-Supreme Award winner of Northland Regional Council’s annual ‘Whakamānawa ā Taiao - Environmental Awards’.

EMR was  one of 47 entries received and was announced at a ceremony attended by about 200 people at Kerikeri’s Turner Centre on Thursday 27 May.

Whakamana te maunga

Whakamana te wai

He mauri o nga tangata
Nga mea katoa he pai
If we look after the water from the mountains to sea,
it will look after us.
It is our life force.


Image by Jess Burges

Salty 20 year celebration for EMR

Salty 20 year celebration for Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR)- Te Kura Moana  at the Poor Knights Islands with Dive! Tutukaka

This year’s twentieth anniversary competition trip Thanks to Dive! Tutukaka and the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation took place on the 14th May and included students from as far north as Waiharara and as far south as Rakiura - Stewart Island. Students are selected based on their action projects undertaken and enthusiasm they show when studying & experiencing the marine environment.

Celebrating 20 years

Water you doing on Friday 14th May? Join us for our 20 year anniversary dinner celebrating both the Experiencing Marine Reserves and Whitebait Connection Programmes.
Featuring presentations from students and community the evening will share some amazing success stories.

- $70 for supporters
- $35 for EMR/WBC coordinators and volunteers

Get your tickets via eventbrite!

- Complementary glass of bubbles on arrival
- Shared platter meals for dinner.
- Great items for silent auctions and raffle

We can't wait to sea you there for a whale of a night.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the special code to unloock discounted tickets for volunteers and coordinators

Eagle ray wins fish of the year!

Eagle ray - Whai repo - takes out Fish of the Year !

The eagle ray is representing the cartilaginous fish family for Fish of the Year. Yes, that means they have no hard bones in their body and are in the same family as sharks and other rays. Eagle rays can be easily distinguished from other rays in New Zealand by their diamond shape. They flap their wings at the same time, like a bird, while other rays, like stingrays, are round in shape and ripple their wings to move.

Distribution and habitat: Eagle rays are found all around New Zealand as well as the Kermadecs, Norfolk Island, Southern and Western Australia.  Their habitat ranges from sandy flats, seagrass beds, estuaries and bays as well as near rocky reefs. They usually prefer to hang out in shallow water, however they have been found as deep as 422 metres! 

Diet: Eagle rays mainly feed on benthic animals like crabs, clams and worms that are buried in the seabed. They use their unique mouths to crush prey to get at the soft bodies inside hard shells. They also have electro-sensory organs in their head in order to find their prey hidden in the sand, and using a jet of water they clear away the sand to expose their meal. This method of feeding is very noticable whilst snorkelling as it leaves large indentations (like craters) in the sand. 

Max length: 150 cm (fin to fin) 

 Breeding and behaviour: Eagle rays produce live young and can have litters of up to 20. They are usually 20 - 30 cm when born. The claspers on male eagle rays distinguish them from females making them relatively easy to tell apart. Females are generally larger than males.  

Fun facts: Eagle rays were originally thought to be endemic to New Zealand until it was discovered that the Australian eagle ray species was identical. For defence against threats, eagle rays have a venomous spine on their tails (like other ray species). Eagle rays are a favourite snack of orca.  

Fish of the Year 2021

Voting has closed.  Winners will be announced soon!

Vote for your ‘Fish of the Year’ HERE  to be in to win cool prizes and recognition for your favorite ika (fish)!


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EMR in the media

Poor Knights Annual Competition Trip

Thirty two rangatahi and their whanau from all around Aotearoa rewarded with Poor Knights snorkel experience! 

The 19th annual EMR Poor Knights competition trip took place on Friday the 11th December. The trip was organised by Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) and made up of representative students from each school that participates in the programme from Northland and Auckland, as well as 2 representatives from the other 6 regions EMR is operating including Taranaki, Coromandel, Gisborne, Wellington, Nelson and Rakiura (Stewart Island). 

Whangateau Snorkel Day - In memory of the late Dr Roger Grace


We got lucky this weekend with the perfect window of weather for our Whangateau Snorkel Day on Sunday, held in memory of the late Dr Roger Grace. Roger was a founding trustee of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust and spent many hours in the estuary doing his PhD research in 1966, pioneering science by SCUBA diving. Last year the Roger Grace Memorial Fund was created to continue to make waves for marine conservation. Please donate today

78 participants joined us on Sunday to explore the mangrove forests and sandstone reefs of Whangateau harbour. Whilst making our way out to the reef, snorkellers spotted hairy crabs, curious mantis shrimps, filtering anemones and weaving snail highways. After crossing the sandy flats of the harbour the reef started to reveal itself, with draping Neptune's necklace and schools of parore and spotties. On our way back to shore we stopped by the mangroves so we could get up close and personal with these important ocean loving trees. We saw barnacles waving their fronds in mesmerising patterns and marvelled at the cave like structures formed by the trunks and roots of the mangroves.


The event provides an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of mangrove forests as fish nurseries and to prevent coastal erosion, while immersing them in the habitat. We also covered the cockle closure and what that marine protection means in relation to water clarity.

Huge thank you to The Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation for funding this event, to the Whangateau Holiday Park for providing accomodation for the volunteers and crew and of course to our amazing volunteers for guiding many new participants through the wonders of the Whangateau Harbour.

Let's get 10,000 kiwis under the water

Please help us to raise funds for our upcoming adventure activity safety audit accreditation and get 10,000 kiwis under the water!

The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme started in Taitokerau/Northland in 2001 with the idea of taking local schools to see unprotected marine areas and comparing them to a fully protected marine reserve. Seeing huge Tamure/snapper swimming by in a marine reserve has inspired thousands of kids to take action for the marine environment and exercise kaitiakitanga.

Since 2001, EMR has guided 70928 people through marine reserves and 132478 have been snorkelling with us all over Aotearoa. We offer community guided snorkel day events and school programmes throughout our nine regions.

Now, more than ever, we feel it's important for kiwi kids and their whanau to get out and experience what is under the sea, in their local backyard. We hope to inspire new marine conservation projects and underwater observations, but most importantly we hope that people will fall in love with ‘te moana’, the sea!


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