5 March 2013

This week New Zealand celebrates Seaweek, so we’re kicking off a series of water-themed stories to run in March.

Steve Journee with kina-eating starfish.

Steve Journee with kina-eating starfish

Steve Journee is doing more than his fair share to support aquatic biodiversity in Wellington Harbour. The local dive specialist recently began an unusual project near The Boat Shed on Taranaki Wharf. He’s dabbling in gardening - with seaweed.

With the help of Victoria University’s Coastal Ecology Lab and the Island Bay Marine Education Centre, Steve has reintroduced a number of species to the inner harbour, including strap weed, red algae, and sea lettuce.

Steve says while there are more than enough nutrients in the harbour to support seaweed species, they struggle to survive due to the unnatural abundance of kina - which like nothing better than to graze on the plants.

“Due to a number of factors, such as land reclamation, pollution and other forms of human interference over many decades, we’ve managed to upset the natural equilibrium in the harbour - allowing kina to dominate the ecosystem.”

By carefully monitoring this area for kina - and relocating them himself - he’s found that the seaweed can thrive. He also draws on help from an army of 11-armed kina-eating starfish, which he’s relocated to form a defensive ring around the area.

Although the garden is still in its infancy, Steve’s already seen a marked improvement in biodiversity - with more fish, rays, sponges, limpets, snails and molluscs frequenting the inner harbour.

He wants to show Wellingtonians that - far from being lifeless and barren - the harbour can support an abundance of marine plants and creatures - provided we take care of it.

“This garden is in an area where hundreds of people walk by each day. If they look into the water and see a hive of activity, I like to think they’ll be far less inclined to allow litter and pollutants to wash into the harbour from stormwater drains.”

Ultimately Steve would love to see a ‘blue belt’ of thriving marine ecosystems that link the harbour to the Taputeranga Marine Reserve.

To see the list of events happening around the city, visit:

Wellington Events - Seaweek