World Oceans day 4: Spread the love

Department of Conservation —  08/06/2021

World Oceans Day
 is today! Since 1992, the United Nations has taken this day to celebrate all the ways that the ocean supports our lives and livelihoods, and to highlight the significant challenges we face in ocean conservation.

To mark this event, and key international climate change talks later this year, our marine team is bringing you a series of blogs to celebrate the vast big blue that surrounds us, while learning more about its role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

By Hannah Hendriks, Technical Advisor Marine Species

We are mad for marine, obsessed with the ocean, and suckers for the sea.

Our staff are dedicated to protecting the wonders and mystery of the ocean for current and future generations. In celebration of all our wonderful people, we asked our scientists, policy makers, community rangers, and other on-the-ground staff what inspired them or drew them to work to conserve planet ocean.

Marine life our staff are dedicated to protecting, notably the jewel anemone and firebrick sea star
📷: © Vincent Zintzen

The spark that ignited a passion

For many, the spark was watching Jacques Cousteau—the original ocean explorer, a pioneer of marine conservation, and inventor of the aqua lung and popular science (that’s what we’re doing here!).

Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet is a more modern example, making the wonders of the ocean accessible for everyone, regardless of where they live.

Other digital media inspirations include The Little Mermaid (but why would you give up living underwater for a boy with goofy hair?), Finding Nemo, and even Spongebob Squarepants.

For many others, myself included, the spark was spending time in and around the water during childhood. We were self-described water babies who couldn’t remember not knowing how to swim. We spent hours fossicking in rock pools or taking long beach walks and looking to see what the tide brought in. For others it was sailing or fishing.

Exploring rock pools – a childhood activity that inspired this marine biologist.
📷: courtesy of Hannah Hendriks

I asked around the team

For Anton van Helden, whale expert, it started by seeing dolphins leaping in the waves of the Interislander ferry while feeling a little green around the gills. (Anton told this story on the DOC Sounds of Science podcast recently)

As a 9-year-old, Marine Species Manager Ian Angus did a school project on how underwater life adapts to pressure and was hooked (get it?).

Some of us found the connection a bit later in life.

While firmly embedded in forest bird conservation, Graeme Taylor observed grey-faced petrels in their amazing aerial courtship displays and decided to commit his life to studying these birds and find ways to restore their populations. He has now been a seabird expert for 40 years.

New Plymouth senior ranger Cameron Hunt found his passion for marine conservation after witnessing the devastation of unregulated environmental practices in a third world country with world-class diving. Joining DOC after a career in the NZ Police has given him the ability to make positive change in the marine environment.

What still amazes you?

New Zealand has 13 species of beaked whale, a kind of whale I didn’t even know existed until I started at DOC! Of special note is the Cuvier’s beaked whale, the breath-holding deep-diving champions. They can dive nearly 3 km deep and hold their breath for four hours!

Pinniped biologist Dr Laura Boren still finds astonishment in the feats of fur seal and sea lion mums. A week after giving birth, they have mated again and are off into the dangers of the mighty ocean to find food for themselves, the pups, and the foetus. On land they deal with feisty, territorial males and cheeky juveniles trying for a sneaky copulation. What cool chicks!

A breaching Cuvier’s beaked whale – breath-holding and deep-diving champion.
📷: Natacha Aguilar-de Soto, Univeristy of La Laguna

This is a creature called the mantis shrimp. Their eyes have 12-16 photoreceptors (humans have 3) giving them the most sophisticated eyes in the animal kingdom. They also pack the most powerful punch in the world (100 times their weight) which causes shock waves strong enough to kill their prey.

Peacock mantis shrimp
📷: Silke Baron (CC-BY 2.0)

The ocean is the last frontier on earth – there is much left to learn and explore. We send a big thanks to all our whānau who work tirelessly to conserve our beautiful underwater world.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world? it is the people, the people, the people

This concludes our series celebrating World Ocean’s Day! If you’re still reading, tonight is the official launch of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science in Aotearoa. You can stream the live event on Facebook here.

And for more info, visit:

You can listen to Hannah talk about her work and how she got into marine science on the very first episode of the DOC Sounds of Science podcast.

Episode #1: Marine species DOC Sounds of Science Podcast

Marine species expert Hannah Hendriks talks whale strandings, post-mortems and crucial data.