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Experiencing Marine Reserves

Imagine snorkelling amongst a dense kelp forest, surrounded by dozens of fascinating new life forms. A frenzy is created on top of the water. Someone has spotted a crayfish, and everyone is taking turns to dive under to get a glimpse of a cray crouching under a ledge. Students come up gasping for breath but feel reassured by their adult buddy and bright yellow bodyboard for time out. Some large snapper cruise past to see what the fuss is about. Gurgling sounds come from a snorkel, while an eagle ray rests on the sand below. The kids are easy to spot in their bright yellow & black wetsuits. The parents come in buzzing, and the kids madly tell their mates about how big the snapper they swam with was and how many different fish they saw. This is all normal conversation during an EMR programme.

Oliver Bone was an ocean enthusiast who joined the 4Sight marine ecology team in 2017. Oliver came to us as a proud supporter of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust – Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) as one of the coordinators running community guided snorkel days for the past year.

EMR’s philosophy of experiential learning about marine conservation fit with the 4Sight values around Land, People and Water somewhat perfectly and we were thrilled to be able to enhance our volunteer programme by keeping Oliver in this position to continue to provide support from a 4Sight staff member to the initiative.

What is EMR?

EMR (Experiencing Marine Reserves) is a national programme of experiential learning about marine conservation. EMR empowers schools and communities by providing the equipment and expertise for a hands-on learning experience in the ocean. The programme involves investigating marine biodiversity and local marine environments before venturing to a fully-protected marine reserve. After this experience, students are able to compare unprotected and protected areas and are supported to put their knowledge into action within the community. By working together as a nation towards understanding more about our marine environment, we can minimise our impacts upon it and conserve what we have for future generations.

Marine education is vital in achieving this goal. Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) provides quality first-hand marine education experiences and initiatives to schools and communities throughout New Zealand. The aim of the EMR programme is to raise awareness, understanding and involvement in marine conservation

EMR operates in 8 regions nationwide with a team of up to 30 coordinators. EMR has guided snorkel experiences for over 30,943 students in NZ marine reserves. EMR's programme outcomes:

  • Promotes education for sustainability & environmental enlightenment;

  • Information transfer and opportunities for community development;

  • Inspires action for the marine environment;

  • Increased awareness, knowledge and involvement in marine conservation;

  • Empowerment to make a difference in tomorrow’s management of the marine environment;

  • Promotes youth leadership;

  • Increased support for marine conservation;

  • Hands-on educational opportunities for ‘learning by doing’ learners;

  • Participants learn about marine life;

  • Promotes ethic of Kaitiakitanga; and

  • Embraces Māori culture.

What is the role of an EMR Coordinator?

EMR coordinators offer guidance, direction and coordination to participants of EMR snorkel days. EMR coordinators prepare and fit all equipment required for the snorkelling day. Once participants are fitted into their gear and ready to go coordinators deliver a briefing and educational talk to teach participants about the functioning of marine life and ensure a safe experience. Following this, the coordinator provides hands-on snorkel instruction and guides the participants through their snorkelling experience. Coordinators aim to leave participants with an increased appreciation and understanding of marine life and inspired about looking after our ocean for future generations.

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