Mussel Reefs: The Mauri of Tīkapa Moana

Here at Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari, we hold the Hauraki Gulf very near and dear to our hearts as we have been operating here for over 20 years. Therefore, a dollar from each ticket bought goes toward the Hauraki Gulf Guardians fund which supports organisations and programs that aim to regenerate the Hauraki Gulf and make it resilient to future changes.

One of the key projects they support is Revive Our Gulf which intends to restore mussel reefs in the Hauraki Gulf.

History of mussels in the Gulf

At the start of the 1900s the inner Hauraki Gulf had over 600km2 of sub-tidal, soft sediment green-lipped mussel reefs. However, between 1910 and 1960 these mussels were dredge fished until depletion and the industry collapsed.

This dredging not only removed the mussels but also their underlying structure and epifauna (animals living on seabed or attached to mussels) which left nothing for mussel larvae (spat) to settle on. This devastated the soft sediment mussel reefs which are now considered “functionally extinct” and 1500km2 of the inner Hauraki Gulf has been scarred due to dredging.

Why restore the mussel reefs?

Mussels are filter feeders which means they filter seawater to get their food which is phytoplankton. This filtration process helps clear sediment and pollutants from seawater which makes our water cleaner. This process also locks away carbon which is very important with the rise of climate change.

Mussel reefs prevent the resuspension of sediment and reduces wave energy which makes our water clearer. These reefs also provide habitats for smaller organisms like invertebrates, nursery habitats for fish and act as food for larger species such as snapper. Mussels have been referred to as “ecological engineers” as they keep seawater clean and clear, as well as increasing biodiversity.

How you can help us help the Gulf

Our company’s mission statement is “The preservation of species and the environment through research, education and awareness”. We feel that both the Hauraki Gulf Guardians fund and the Revive Our Gulf trust strongly correlate with our mission statement and are proud to be contributing towards the restoration of the Hauraki Gulf.

However, we couldn’t do any of it without you, our passengers, so a big thank you to everyone who joins us to experience the magic that the Hauraki Gulf has to offer and contributes to protecting the future of Tīkapa Moana!

Contributed by Marine Scientist (and Auckland Whale and Dolphin Crew Superstar!) Laurie Boulle