Our most ancient creatures live in the sea, because that’s where life began! Yes, our ancestors came from the sea.
Sharks are cool! They have six senses – not five like us. They can detect the magnetic energy of the earth and this helps them to map the waters. Plus, they’re ancient. They’re even older than dinosaurs. We have to help save them from shark-finning.
We’ve yet to name all the creatures in the sea, because there are so many of them.
In 100AD, people used to snorkel using hollow reeds, and in 1300 the Persians created goggles from shells, but it’s only in the last 150 years that we’ve really had the technology to understand what’s in our sea.
And we are still finding new sea creatures every day. Some of them live in the deep, deep sea and live to be hundreds and hundreds of years old.
A story about a slimehead
One such creature that lives in the deep sea is a fish called orange roughy. It is part of the slimehead family. This family likes to live in deep, cold water, like the water surrounding New Zealand.
In the 1970s, NZ fishers caught lots of orange roughy because people think they’re yum to eat.
However, fish don’t age like us, they don’t have wrinkles, they don’t grow grey hair – so the fishers didn’t know that they were fishing up old, old fish. Some of them had been around since Captain Cook.
Some orange roughy can live to be 149 years old! They are slow growing and they breed later in life, generally at around 20- 30 years of age.
This makes them very vulnerable to extinction. An orange roughy caught before the age of 20 years is a fish that won’t breed. Fishers caught so many orange roughy that they started to run out of fish. Oh no! We were fishing them to extinction!
Since the early 1980s, we have learned a lot more about orange roughy and we now limit the number we catch. We still catch too many though, so DON'T eat them. They need time to re-build their population.
Also, the fishers catch them by trawling a heavy net across the sea floor which damages it and kills everything living down there.
We love marine reserves
One of the ways that we can study our marine life is through marine reserves. Marine reserves are like underwater national parks, and they allow scientists to see what the sea should be like.
Because we are an island nation, we are home to a large area of sea filled with sea creatures that we must protect. This area is 15 times the size of New Zealand – bigger than the size of Japan!