Credit: NZMSS

Posted on 15 July 2021

Highlights from NZMSS Conference 2021

  • 6 Minutes to read

Last Thursday was the last day of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society Conference 2021. We sponsored the keynote speakers and a special session. The morning line-up featured some of our researchers presenting their Sustainable Seas mahi and offering insights on the changing world of marine research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Charlotte Panton from the Communications Team attended the Sustainable Seas session on Thursday and live tweeted the speakers. Read the key takeaways below or click on the tweets to read the full threads.

Linda Faulkner, our Manahautū, set the scene:


Keynote speakers 

Presenting online, Tina Ngata spoke about plastic pollution and centering Indigenous partnership and knowledge for healthy oceans and environments. The key takeaway? Our science must be for good. Growing relationships with integrity is critical for doing good science in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Te Rerekohu Tuterangiwhiu, project leader for Whakaika te Moana, spoke about the meaning behind kaitiaki and some advice for scientists doing research in Aotearoa.

  • Reciprocity: there are cultivation obligations and harvesting rights, not just of fisheries or natural resources, also of mātauranga Māori/knowledge.
  • Replace what was taken – space, knowledge, language, and practice.

Read full thread for more epic reflections.

Special session speakers

Waiaria Rameka, project co-leader for Ngā Tohu o te Ao: Maramataka and marine management spoke about how Māori Cultural Health Indicator (MCHI) tools created roadblocks as the resulting maps didn’t represent or describe cultural values in the marine space, a ‘square peg round hole’ situation. The Ngā Tohu project is advancing MCHI theory and practice through exploration of maramataka in Tauranga Moana. So far, lots and lots of wānanga have happened, where the ability to observe ngā tohu (signals) has been developed to produce ngā kaupeka (baseline).

Maru Samuels, Chair of Iwi Collective Partnership (ICP) and project leader for Kia tika te hī ika: Exploring fisheries tikanga and mātauranga, presented the quest for mātauranga Māori of the ICP iwi partners to inform commercial fishing practice. This findings from our project will inform the development of a tikanga-fisheries management framework. He highlighted the importance of having the right researchers and the right approach – partnering with Ngā Wai A Te Tūī Māori & Indigenous Research Centre will help build capability and create relevant resources.

Why are we always arguing about risk and uncertainty? Paula Blackett and Shaun Awatere, project co-leaders for Perceptions of risk and uncertainty, have an answer: it depends on where you stand – literally and figuratively! They use a very simple story of different people’s different reactions to a weather forecast of rain, see the final tweet in the thread for a sneak peek at the cartoon they’ve created.

Kura Paul-Burke, project co-leader for Awhi Mai Awhi Atu, Ecological responses to cumulative effects and Pātangaroa hua rau: the bioactive potential of sea stars, shared some insights for researchers working with Māori: be in service, know our name and say it!

“We are not separate from the world; we are part of it…areas with high cultural diversity have high biodiversity. We are better together.” - Kura


Nick Lewis, Blue economy theme leader, spoke about our research into the blue economy – some of our work includes familiar, dominant ways of understanding the economy with dollars, numbers or percentages. But these traditional approaches don’t show the whole picture!

Our core blue economy projects are investigating new approaches to doing economy in the marine space, and our Innovation Fund projects are partnerships with iwi, enterprise and business organisations to help build a blue economy in Aotearoa.

One of our core blue economy projects was discussed next.

Rob Major, from the Building a seaweed sector project, talked about how seaweed can be perceived as a ‘silver bullet’ to the world’s problems, given seaweed can mitigate pollution, provide habitat and food for marine life, reduce the impacts of climate change and provide bioremediation services. We don’t want to overpromise, so building a seaweed sector based on an ecosystem-based management approach is a way to deliver.

The final speaker for the session, Dana Clark, presented research from Tipping Points that looks at eDNA metabarcoding as a technique to detect nutrient enrichment in estuaries. Her study found indicator species that can detect low level changes, and this has potential to be developed into future monitoring tools.


There were many other Sustainable Seas researchers and students presenting their research throughout the whole conference week, at session presentations or at the poster session on Wednesday night. A huge congratulations to everyone who attended and presented, meeting kanohi kit e kanohi (face to face) and being present in the room was very special. 

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