Protecting our marine reserves: Auckland’s marine rangers

Department of Conservation —  19/04/2019

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we’re profiling four rangers who protect Auckland’s marine reserves – Gabrielle, Ant, Bridgette and Grant.

DOC boat Taikehu patrols Auckland’s marine reserves.
📷: DOC

It’s illegal to fish or take shellfish from a marine reserve as all marine life is protected. Marine reserves are established so scientists can study ecosystems where marine life is left undisturbed. They’re also places people can see and enjoy abundant marine life in a natural state.

Introducing our rangers

Marine Ranger Gabrielle Goodin – manages the protection of Auckland’s marine reserves.     

Marine Reserve Rangers Ant Muyt, Bridgette Rademakers and Grant Johnston – Ant is based at Long Bay-Okura Marine Reserve, Bridgette at Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve and Grant works with Gabrielle on the DOC boats to patrol the reserves.  

The three Auckland Marine Reserve rangers are funded from the Government’s Biodiversity Contingency Fund.  

1. What’s the coolest thing about Auckland’s five marine reserves?

Bridgette – “We are lucky that our marine reserves are so accessible. There is so much biodiversity and its right on our doorstep. You can go see a whole range of fish and marine life and it doesn’t cost anything to experience.”

Ant – “It is amazing to see how people who visit the reserves become so connected with nature and with each other. People are having such an awesome time and particularly at Long Bay, it is such a mixing pot with a diverse range of people coming to enjoy our nature.”

Bridgette has been welcoming visitors and patrolling the reserve at Goat Island over the summer.
📷: Drew Divehall

2. What does the Auckland marine team do?

Gabrielle – “We look after the marine life in the city of sails, including our marine reserves and a large variety of marine mammals. Our aim as a team is to advocate for the marine spaces and species we have a responsibility to protect.”

“We patrol the reserves to advocate in the field and prevent any illegal activity. Marine mammal responses are also a significant part of our role with growing numbers of fur seals visiting our very busy coastal areas and occasional stranding’s of whales and dolphins.”

“Ant, Bridgette and Grant began patrolling our marine reserves just before Christmas. They’ve been really effective in protecting our reserves over the busy summer months. Having them on the ground at the Goat Island and Long Bay reserves and on the water has meant we’ve been able to prevent a lot of people from fishing and taking shellfish from the reserves.”             

Ant – “Educating people is a really important to increase awareness of marine reserves. We engage with people around the reserves and distribute flyers and goodie bags on the water, at boat ramps and in the community.”

“Over the summer I talked to over 20,000 people at Long Bay and the vast majority were not aware they were even in a marine reserve.”

Ant and Grant patrolling Te Matuku marine reserve.
📷: Drew Divehall

3. What are the biggest challenges our marine reserves face?

Grant – “A lot of people we come across on the water aren’t aware of the boundaries, rules and why marine reserves are important.”

Bridgette – “A big challenge is people fully understanding how to behave inside marine reserves. It’s not only a no fishing zone, but you can’t take shells, dump waste or feed fish.”

Gabrielle – “The biggest challenge in Auckland is being surrounded by New Zealand’s largest population. There are human impacts that are detrimental to our reserves and very hard to monitor or control such as pollution and waste flow, sediment run off and invasive marine species.

4. How can people help to protect New Zealand’s 44 marine reserves?

Gabrielle – “The community is really important as people can help pass on their knowledge, tell others they are in a marine reserve and help prevent them breaking the rules.”

“People can also do their bit by making responsible consumer choices with things like plastics and how they dispose of rubbish.”

Grant – “The best thing boaties can do is be aware of the rules and locations by preparing before they head out. Find out the local rules, use apps such as Marine mate and update your charts.”

“Members of the public can also help us by calling DOC HOT if they see people breaking the rules.”

Auckland Marine Ranger Gabrielle out in her office.
📷: DOC

5. What do you love most about being a marine ranger?

Grant – “I just love being out on the water and connecting with the people. Everyone we talk to is really passionate about the ocean and keeping it healthy.

Gabrielle – “Being able to educate people about our wonderful marine life in Auckland and encourage those who want to help. I always like an underdog and it is great to know we work towards protecting whole marine areas, so everything from the seaweed to the snapper is protected.”

Ant – “The people and the diversity. We interact with so many people from different backgrounds, but everyone shares the same connection to the ocean and its wildlife.

Grant and Ant helping fishermen identify marine reserve boundaries.
📷: Drew Divehall

6. What unique marine life have you seen on the job?

Bridgette – “We often see dolphins and eagle rays around Goat Island. There’s heaps of fish species and even random creatures like sea hares and nudibranchs which come in the most amazing colours and patterns. Even being able to swim amongst the huge kelp is really cool.”

Ant – “I’ve seen all sorts, bryde’s whales, seals, dolphins, heaps of penguins and sea birds.”

Gabrielle – “I have been lucky to see some very rare sights such as Maui dolphins playing in the surf and False Killer Whales amongst a pod of Bottlenose dolphins. I’ve also seen some weird sights such as a Leopard seal lounging around in Auckland’s busiest marina.”

Auckland marine reserve locations and rules.
📷: DOC

More Information on Auckland’s marine reserves, including locations, boundaries and rules:

Learn more about New Zealand’s 44 marine