19 Sep 2020

Trawler net recovered at Taputeranga Marine Reserve New Zealand

The Taputeranga Marine Reserve is mere minutes away from the city centre, but the underwater metropolis provides a stark contrast to the busy streets of the Wellington CBD. And it was there, amongst the rocky reefs and kelp forests, that I’d learnt to dive less than two years ago. It can be cold, there’s often current, and sometimes the visibility disappears right to zero, but what brings me back under the water along the rugged coast is not knowing what I will find on the next dive. It could be a ray, a skate, a conger eel, or even a shark … it’s not knowing what’ll come out of the greenish murk that keeps me coming back.

A lot of what I’ve been able to do underwater is thanks to my mentor and founder of Ghost Diving NZ, Rob Wilson. From perpetual equipment loans to last minute expeditions round the country, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a diver if it wasn’t for Rob. Part of what makes a great mentor is knowing when to step back and it was on a day that Rob couldn’t dive that he encouraged me to take on the challenge of leading a scooter traverse with GDNZ’s Matt Rolfe out along the reef edge from one bay to the next. But as fate would have it, the traverse would have to wait for another day.

The dive couldn’t have started any better as we dropped right into a cauldron of life, a mix of blue moki surrounded by spotties with a conger eel swimming right through the middle. An incredible sight, but we continued on weaving our way between fronds of kelp and rocky outcrops covered in life. We made it out to the reef edge and that’s where we found it, laying there, dormant, like the calm before the storm. Lost fishing gear kills countless marine animals every year, yet ghost nets know no boundaries and this one had found its way into the reserve, the reserve where it had all started for me and the reserve I had come to love.

It’s said luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and it was lucky that on the day I was prepared to step up to lead the challenging traverse that I encountered the net. If not for my training and experiences diving with Rob and the team at Ghost Diving NZ, I don’t know how I would’ve tackled the net that weighed over a hundred kilos and lay over a hundred metres offshore. As it happened, I marked the net with an SMB and then returned with a plan, lift bags, and GDNZ's Rob Edward who put in a Herculean effort bundling it up and towing it back to shore. What happened on that day, showed just how far I had come thanks to my training and my team. And on that day it empowered me protect what I love, the Taputeranga Marine Reserve, the place I’d learnt to dive

Chris Fink (Volunteer Diver GDNZ)

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