Monitoring our Marine Reserves: Surprising ideas

Department of Conservation —  15/10/2018

Marine Ranger Tom MacTavish takes us through the fifth and final installment in our blog series from the marine reserve monitoring project at Banks Peninsula using baited underwater video. Read the series of blogs here. See the full scientific report on ‘Biological monitoring of marine protected areas at Banks Peninsula using baited underwater video (BUV)’ here.

Social media and science are not natural bed buddies, as the first tends to revel in subjectivity, while the other adheres to the clinical and objective. Yet the process of sharing our baited underwater video survey through social media has been a rewarding one. Many people who’ve read the blogs have got back to us with exciting questions and ideas. As theses people come from different backgrounds with different skill sets their ideas have been novel and thought-provoking.

Brent Martin analysing some BUV footage.

One such novel idea came from an Akaroa-based computer scientist Brent Martin. Brent’s got a brain the size of a small planet, and when he learnt about how time-consuming it had been to extract robust fish counts from the 75 hours of undersea footage he asked whether we’d considered employing a machine instead. Would it really be possible for marine scientists to use machine learning technology to accurately and consistently identify and then count fish species on an underwater video?  Brent’s taken away some of our manually processed video to put that very question to the test.

Looking ahead, we’re exploring some of our own new ideas too. Here at Banks Peninsula, the two marine reserves are not free from fishing pressure – we know that because of the nearly 20 people that were caught and convicted for marine reserve offences last summer. Yet our research assumes that marine reserves are non-fished areas, and, equally, that control sites are fished areas. Thus, during routine compliance patrols, which also cover our BUV study area, we’ve begun recording fishing vessel location and their target species. Check out some preliminary results in the embedded density plot. Can you identify where the marine reserves are?

Can you spot the marine reserves?

In the first blog it was pointed out that marine reserves comprise just 0.3 percent of our ocean territory.  But, tiny as those areas are, we hope that our first Banks Peninsula BUV survey has helped more people understand just how important the reserves can be. By their very

A trumpeter nibbles at the baited underwater video camera.

definition in the Act, the primary function of a marine reserve is research. Thus, they’re places for building knowledge about our oceans. They’re a spy-hole into another world about which we know so little, but upon which many of us are dependent for our well-being.

How can we all continue the learning curve? Here at Banks Peninsula our moana is home to areas of customary importance, a multi-million dollar dolphin tourism industry,

A blue moki swims past the baited underwater camera.

significant aquaculture, a burgeoning cruise ship industry, and a long history of fishing. Our collective challenge is to balance all these evolving interests while also maintaining and restoring the health of the very thing that makes them all possible. That’ll be no mean feat, but scientific monitoring and research that can augment Akaroa’s wealth of local knowledge and experience probably isn’t a bad place to start.

If you’ve got any feedback or new, thought-provoking ideas then we’d love to hear from you. Because, as we’ve learnt from our first BUV survey, good bed buddies can come from some unlikely places!

6 responses to Monitoring our Marine Reserves: Surprising ideas


    Great work you fellas, must be very satisfying seeing the results after putting the time into all the planning and logistics which can be so time consuming which we all question on occasions perhaps.


    What sort of sharks did you see and is there a list of the 30 species ?


    Great job and very interesting. good to see so many different species. Also looking forward to further studies.


    Very interesting and nice to know that the reserves do work. Thanks for all the info provided over the course of the project, and look forward to more from this and other studies.