Kāpiti’s Marine Reserve is now being monitored 24/7 by a high-tech web camera that provides a live feed of any illegal activities.
This week marks the formal launch of the camera, an initiative of volunteer community group Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve (the Guardians).
Guardians plus DOC, plus the US Embassy
It was installed by the Guardians with assistance from the Department of Conservation. The camera technology was funded by the Embassy of the United States of America.
Guardians chair Ben Knight says the collaboration has enabled a cutting-edge tool to be deployed to protect one of New Zealand’s largest and oldest marine reserves, rated by DOC as one of the top 10 marine biodiversity hot spots.
“Kāpiti marine reserve is the hidden jewel in the Kāpiti Island crown and is a nationally significant marine taonga,” he says. “The reserve is host to an incredible array of indigenous marine life and continues to play an important role in rebuilding the heavily depleted fish stocks outside of the protected area through spillover of mature fish and fish larvae.
“It provides important benefits to recreational, commercial and customary fishers.
“It is therefore vitally important that this national treasure is properly protected so that current and future generations can enjoy the benefits it provides.
“The webcam project is a scalable, high-tech solution to the age-old problem of illegal fishing. We believe it will act as a serious deterrent to poachers and will enable a more targeted approach taken to the compliance and law enforcement effort.
“The webcam also has many other uses including search & rescue, tourism, environmental monitoring and fisheries research.”
Used by boaties and divers
Ben Knight says during the past 6-month testing phase, the camera has already been widely used by local boaties and divers to check conditions before they head out for a day on the water.
“It’s an awesome multi-tool with many benefits to the local community and the Guardians are proud to have led the development of the project,” he says.
Overlooks hole in the rock
Installed at the north end of the island, the camera overlooks the ‘Hole in the Rock’. This popular site is hard to view from the mainland or DOC’s island base. It will increase DOC’s ability to gather evidence of any suspected poaching.
DOC’s Kāpiti Wellington operations manager Jack Mace says it will be a great tool for deterring and identifying potential offenders.
“It’s exciting for our rangers – it provides an extremely high-quality picture. We can read the brand name on your sunglasses.
“We hope it will deter people from being tempted to take any marine life from the reserve. From DOC’s perspective, deterring potential offenders is a far better use of resources than trying to catch them in the act.”
Reports of suspected illegal fishing activity in Kāpiti Marine Reserve have been declining after a peak last year.
Jack Mace says this is due to the very good work the Guardians have done in raising the profile of the reserve with locals and in the media.
“Through their passion and technological know-how, members of the Guardians proposed the web camera project to DOC. We could see the benefits of this camera and supported it wholeheartedly. We are very grateful for the funding opportunity from the US Embassy.”
Two more cameras coming
At this week’s launch, further US Embassy funding of $10,600 was announced for two more web cameras aimed at the southern parts of the marine reserve.
The U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Susan Niblock, says the Embassy welcomes efforts in the Pacific region to enhance information sharing on security and law enforcement concerns to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
“Fisheries are the lifeblood of Pacific island economies and a cornerstone of U.S-Pacific cooperation. I’m proud to celebrate what our Embassy’s support has been able to accomplish with these wonderful partners, who share our values and recognise the importance of conservation and education when it comes to the environment.”
Jack Mace says, “Along with the regular DOC patrols, and the very welcome support from locals who also keep an eye on the water, installing the camera means we have another tool to protect this incredible hotspot for marine biodiversity.”