The sheltered waters of the Waitematā Harbour forms one of the arms of theHauraki Gulf Marine Park/Ko te Pātaka kai o Tīkapa Moana. At its narrowest point it is crossed by the Auckland Harbour Bridge, one of the busiest junctions in Auckland. Daily, more than 170,000 vehicles travel the bridge that connects Auckland’s North Shore and the CBD. But lately the hustle and bustle of our biggest city has been brought to a relative standstill during Alert Level 4, and some long absent visitors have been making a comeback. Fraser Stobie, an environmental consultant at Envirostrat, was lucky enough to capture the moment when an eagle ray visited.
Silver linings are hard to find while the world deals with the global chaos and resulting economic fallout arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, an undercurrent of positive news stories about cleaner coastal waters, the return of wildlife to urban areas, and reduced atmospheric pollution has improved the mood. My mind is drawn in particular to the pictures that went viral across social media in mid-March that show drastically clearer water in the canals of Venice, allowing residents to see fish for the first time and attracting swans to places where they were previously absent.
Coming from a scientific background I place a high value on collecting data and utilising robust scientific techniques to draw conclusions. However, the tangible anecdotal observations we’re making in our immediate environment during lock down can’t be ignored.
I am fortunate to live along the shores of the Waitematā, with fantastic views across to Auckland CBD and out towards Rangitoto and the Hauraki Gulf. While practicing responsible exercise habits during the lockdown, I have been inspecting the harbour waters adjacent to SH1 and the Harbour Bridge and noticed rapid changes that mirror what has been observed in Venice.
Water clarity has improved substantially. I can now see the seafloor. The seaweed that anchors itself here is now standing vertical, free from the sediment that smothers it. Schools of fish meander along the seawall, following a large eagle ray – a returning visitor not seen in a long time. And in the air, tōrea pango/oyster catchers, poaka/pied stilts and tūturiwhatu/New Zealand dotterel are seen more frequently.