August 02, 2022

Dive Report: Motutapu / Administration Bay

2 August 2022
The W/E finger pointing towards Sandy Bay (36.745771, 174.900405)
High tide
Vis 4m
No current
Exit 50bar
12m max depth
Hood, gloves, 3 + 5mm wetsuits, a bit cold on exit

I wanted to explore this spot because its in the middle of a proposed High Protection Area. I also heard that some of the people who run the nearby Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp ask fishers to stay away so the children can swim with fish.

I descended down my anchor rope to 11m. Swum SW 50m to the base of some large rocks. Seafloor was rocks and shell hash. Lots of encrusting species on the rocks, Ecklonia was sparse and small from 12-5m but thick and canopy forming in the shallows <6m. Kina large and spread out. Fanworm abundant.

I saw >10 triplefins, 3 goatfish and one spotty. I dont know why so few fish, I turned my lights off for 10 minutes to see if that was scaring them away but it made no difference.

Swam back to boat and pleasingly drifted into my anchor rope doing my safety stop :D

Posted on August 02, 2022 05:40 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 21 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 24, 2022

Dive Report: Motutapu

23 June 2022
Just north of Otahuhu Point (-36.779397, 174.931207)
2hrs before high tide
Vis 3m
Not much current
No strobe (failed)
Exit 50bar with numb fingers
9.5m max depth

Descended to 6m, swum east to a depth of 9.5m then returned to explore the shallows to 4m. There was thick canopy forming kelp growing on rocks at 4m (mostly Ecklonia radiata). This quickly transitioned to turf and kina barrens by 6m with abundant Mediterranean fanworm and grey massive sponges. At this depth the reef was covered in a fine layer of silt. The rocks got smaller turning to rubble with patches of kelp. Most of the dive was over shell hash with the odd bit of rubble which had abundant large kina. I was impressed with the diversity of sponges, I paid attention to the grey massive sponges which seem to have been impacted by the recent marine heatwave . The eleven-arm sea stars were abundant on the shell hash. I only found one live scallop (juvenile).

Fish seen, school of parore in the shallows, some triplefin and spotty and just one goatfish.

Posted on June 24, 2022 22:00 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 30 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 08, 2022

Dive report: Te Arai

Shore dive from surf beach at high tide. Wave height 1-1.5m. Vis 6-8m.

I had a chat to a local surfer before I entered the water who was worried about me in the waves with so much gear. I only had the GoPro with me. I entered in the rip and headed NE to rocks 400m offshore. Stayed on the sandy bottom, only lost visibility briefly at the break, then it cleared up.

Some barren rocks on the way out with clusters of Olive shells but no fish or kelp. I used a lot of air on the way out so only had 10 minutes or so on the bigger rocks (I wanted to save plenty of air for my return under the surf). I explored the reef at about 8-10m deep. The rocks had a diverse assembly of sponges and patches of ecklonia.

Fish seen (one of everything!) 1 John Dory, 1 Leather jacket, 1 Eagle ray, 1 Red moki, Several common triplefin and one unidentified triplefin, 1 Juvenile demoiselle, 1 Conger eel, 2 Spotty, 1 Parore, c 20 Goatfish, 3 juvenile Snapper, and one Sprat with unusual dark vertical stripes on the shore. Also accidentally dug up two Tuatua while holding my position on the seafloor going back through the surf.

The current took me NW during my safety stop. Surface swim for 10 mins then used 20 bar swimming from the break to the shore (no-problem). Only 4 surfers in the water. Exit 50 bar.

Posted on May 08, 2022 03:40 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 15 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 28, 2022

Dive reports: Te Whanganui A Hei Marine Reserve

26 April 2022
From kayak launched at Hahei Beach
Small workups observed on the way with many little penguins, white-fronted terns and fluttering shearwater
Wind 3knots, surface clam, fish visible
Dive 70mins at 6m over a rocky reef
Visibility 6-8m

I was surrounded by snapper almost immediately, they were very excited and I was impressed with the size and number of them. They followed me the entire dive making it hard for me to photograph anything else. Several bit the end of my camera lens and one had a go at my flash cable until I tied it up. I was pleased to see several crayfish including a juvenile. The crevices were not bristling but there were many many more than at the Leigh Marine Reserve. I saw many species that I was not able to photograph including Banded wrase, Blue cod, Blue-eyed triple fin, Common triplefin, Piper, Sandager's wrasse, Spotty, Parore, Silver drummer, Leatherjacket and Blue maomao.

My favourite moment in the dive was when I swum under a ledge where a large crayfish was sitting on old kina shells like they were the skulls of its enemies. I was a little intimidated when it advanced towards me but it was just curious and rubbed its antenna over my camera.

27 April 2022
From kayak launched at Hahei Beach
No workups but did see small fish (6cm) leaping out of water chased by a little penguin
Wind 7 knots, surface choppy
I told off a fisherman on the way in (one bay over) who was feeding the fish to show his kids. (Feeding fish in a marine reserve constitutes a disturbance of the marine life and is therefore an offence under the Marine Reserves Act).
Dive 70mins at 6m over boulders
Visibility 6-8m

Here the Snapper were much more clam and chilled out. Maybe the really hungry ones had left the area to see what the fisherman was throwing in the water. This gave me space to photograph all the other fish which were diverse and abundant.

UPDATE: This little wrasse which I could not ID turned out to be a new record for New Zealand.

I was really impressed with this marine reserve, there was so much more life than the smaller marine reserve at Leigh. I will be back to explore it further.

Posted on April 28, 2022 07:01 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 26 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 14, 2022

Dive report: Green-lipped Mussel Bed Thumb Point, Waiheke Island

The Sea Change Seasketch maps have a huge green-lipped mussel / kutāi bed west of Thumb Point, Waiheke Island. I am particularly interested in this species as I am helping restore it in the Hauraki Gulf.

I dropped down on the eastern (shallow) side of the bed at 8m depth. Although it was low tide the visibility was great at more than 6m. I found a few old dead kutāi shells around the base of some boulders. I then swum west until I reached turn pressure reaching just over 15m depth. The seafloor was shell hash with dog cockle shell dominant. I saw the odd live dog cockle and scallop (it was great to see more juvenile scallops on the other side of thumb point but I did not have my camera for that dive) and one or two horse mussels. There were one or two kutāi shells in the hash but I didn't see any live kutāi the whole dive. As it was low tide I scanned the intertidal rocks for mussels but could see none. There was good kelp coverage with only a few patches of kina barren. Good numbers of sweep, red moki and goatfish on the reef.

Conversely I was very disappointed with the kelp coverage and pleased to see alive kutāi on nearby Horuhoru / Gannet Rock. I circled the island in my boat and had a quick snorkel.

Posted on March 14, 2022 20:44 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 22 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 23, 2022

Dive report: Rhodolith Bed SW Pakatoa Island

The Sea Change Seasketch maps have a huge rhodolith bed south west of Pakatoa Island. I dropped down in the middle of it hoping to see a bright pink seafloor with incredible structure and diversity (see this journal post). I was very disappointed to find thick mud with Mediterranean fanworm the dominant epifauna.

I dug three holes 8-10cm deep and found lots of large shells mostly green-lipped mussels. There were no signs of shell hash or rhodoliths. If there was a rhodolith bed at this location it hasn't been here for decades. I also found many Southern Sand Star whose outlines were clearly visible (where they had disturbed the algae when digging into the mud to hide). I wonder what visual predator they are hiding from during the day. I can't imagine a Charonia lampas being able to navigate the soft mud.

Posted on February 23, 2022 20:34 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 10 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 22, 2022

Dive report: Rhodolith Bed Maria Island

South side of Maria Island
High tide 11:30am
Depth 8m
Vis 5m, very windy recently

I have been hearing about how awesome rhodolith beds are for years but never seen one. I know they are an important and habitat with nursery / recruitment benefits and has been in decline for decades in the Hauraki Gulf. I find a lot of individual rhodoliths but never more than five in a square meter. It was very exciting to bump into this bed at the Noises. I did not measure it but it was bigger than 10x4m. I imagine it is protected from dredges by the adjacent rocky reef.

I was blown away by the complexity of it, the bed dramatically increases the complexity and surface area of the seafloor. The bed was associated with other dead shell and gravel. I took a lot of photos of it and was pleased to see juvenile tipa / scallops in the bed along with a lot of other life. I was worried about the algae / biofilm smothering the photosynthesising ability of the rhodoliths but they might be quite resilient to seasonal growths.

Posted on January 22, 2022 23:08 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 5 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

January 10, 2022

Dive report: Te Matuku Marine Reserve

Just inside the bay
10 Jan, 2022, 10am
High Tide 1:40 pm

Circled around a bit
Current low
Vis 2m surface, 1m bottom. It was not good enough to use my fancy camera or spend much time.
Depth 5m
Substrate: Soft mud, heaps of crab/shrimp holes
I put my hand in the mud seven times. Shell at 10cm deep every time. Four large clam shells, 2 scallop shells and one predatory snail. Some smaller shell.

Posted on January 10, 2022 20:55 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Dive report: Te Matuku Marine Reserve, Passage Rock

20m North East of Passage Rock
10 Jan, 2022, 12:30pm
High Tide 1:40 pm

Red-billed gulls breeding and Reef heron fishing on Passage Rock.

75m transect
Current low
Vis 2m
Depth 5m
Substrate: Rocks and sand => Gravel => Mud
Epibenthic fauna dominated by Mediterranean fanworm and pleated tunicate barring a nice patch of White-striped anemone.
Mud was soft and deep, I put my hand in seven times. Green lipped mussel shell four times at 25cm, scallop twice at 10-15cm, one plunge found no shell.

Nice to find a fisher parked by my boat when I surfaced to check I wasn't fishing in the marine reserve :D

Posted on January 10, 2022 20:33 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 19 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 08, 2022

Dive report: North West Waiheke

10:30 am 8 Jan 2022
High tide 12:45
-36° 45' 018” S , 174° 59' 015” E
Depth 20m
Substrate recorded as high current mud
Site chosen for investigation as a dominant habitat in marine reserve proposal
Bottom time 25mins (100bar air)

Vis 4-5m at surface, 1-2m on the bottom
Mud was very soft (for 8cm then harder below)
Investigated a 20m x 20m area
Mediterranean fanworm (1-2 per sq m)
Many sponges and clubbed tunicates
I put my hand in seven times and pulled up:

  • Five very large (historic) green-lipped mussels, one had a top and bottom shell which I have not seen before but it broke
  • Two scallop shells in ok condition, not particularly big, also saw a scallop on the surface

Straight away, lots of shell under the surface, very easy to find.
Massive school of blue mackerel or juvenile kahawai circled me as I ascended at 15m

Posted on January 08, 2022 23:53 by shaun-lee shaun-lee | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment