In December, Wellington Underwater Club members successfully completed a four-day Reef Life Survey training course. Our divers have honed in on their fish and critter identification skills and are now able to undertake standardised RLS surveys of rocky reefs and add the observations to the global Reef Life Survey data base.
With a support team working hard behind the scenes and the divers practicing marine monitoring over the months leading up to the trip, it was great to finally see everything come together. The last RLS training trip in Wellington had to be cancelled last minute due to big swells, but this time conditions over the week were consistently good and we were able to dive sites all along the coast, including the Yung Pen, Mermaid’s Kitchen, the Snorkel Trail, Princess Bay (inside and outside the reserve), Moa Point and Breaker Bay. RLS trainer Antonia Cooper and the group of enthusiastic trainees made the training course real fun, despite the cold water temperature and long days with lots of information to take up!
Contributing to citizen science projects like Reef Life Survey allows divers to add purpose to their dive and share their passion with the wider community. The observations build public knowledge and provide resources for other marine enthusiasts to learn more about the marine life they interact with.
The divers were also rewarded with great encounters. Molly got to see her first New Zealand octopus (Maori Octopus, Macroctopus maorum). The Blue Cod (Parapercis colias) made it onto the favourites list being very curious with Rama’s camera. But they weren’t just posing out all the time; Grace observed one that took a quick turn and had a go at my finger while I was recording species’ IDs. Much more relaxed and harmless to humans are the Spectacled Triplefins (Ruanoho whero) with their distinct facial patterns (good pick, Cath!). We are also glad to report that Antonia made good friends with the locals, like the Striped Clingfish (Trachelochismus melobesia, endemic) that hitched a ride on her camera housing. My highlight was getting a close look at and photographing the Crested Weedfish (Cristiceps aurantiacus)!
Since the trip, we have already been back in the water for more fish & critter spotting and to run RLS surveys, including at a site at Kapiti Island. If you are a diver or snorkeler and want to learn about local marine species or get involved in our marine citizen science projects get in touch! You can follow Wellington Underwater Club on Facebook or find us online www.wuc.org.nz.
Thanks to Reef Life Survey, the Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve and Dive Wellington for the ongoing support!