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Putting the sea in conservation?
13 January 2015

It’s elementary, Dear Readers.

Carbon that is.

Carbon, “C” in chemistry, is an organic element that combines with “fibre” to make really cool bicycles, kayaks and other toys, or combines with oxygen to make a really warm planet.

It’s that latter incarnation as the “greenhouse gas” known as carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s led to a lot of effort in recent times to control Mr Carbon; either by limiting his release or by trapping him somehow.

For most of us that means reducing our use of fossil fuels or growing trees.

So conserved areas such as the native forests in the Virtually On Track gems are a good thing for all the right reasons – they trap carbon, release oxygen, are nice to be in and produce useful stuff like food and timber.

In the case of native forests however they grow timber so slowly we could easily wipe them out if we just kept harvesting them.

That actually happened around Athens in Italy as early as the 5th Century.

Today, of course, we have plantation forests and farming systems and it’s all a bit more sustainable and these land uses are found on most of the VOT gems.

One of the gems, however, features an entirely innovative approach to sustainability and at the same time provides a great recreation opportunity.

Opotiki Community Reef, in the Opotiki and Motu gem, is an area only 1km offshore from Opotiki township where reefs are being constructed to act as homes for fish.

Now into its seventh or eighth year, the reef project is producing regular catches of moderate-sized snapper and attracting bigger things from time to time.

For those with a kayak, it’s an easy paddle with a good prospect of collecting a feed at the same time.

Over time the reefs will get more productive and should see more people choosing them as a favourite fishing ground instead of harder to reach spots along the coastline.

For me, (and although I work for the Department of Conservation, this is not the department’s opinion), the reefs are a good offset that means more of our wild fish will be safer for longer.

Just like farming or forestry, it’s an alternative approach that might make conserving more valuable areas a bit more palatable – a case maybe of having our fish and eating it too.

If you’re in Opotiki and want some fish with your recreation or are keen to give the reef builders a hand check out

Kayak hire is available from several local outlets – check out the VOT gem pages for details.

This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

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