As part of the McGuinness Institute’s OneOceanNZ, on 11 March 2016 we hosted a public discussion exploring ocean conservation in New Zealand. The Institute was joined by academics and students from the Sea Education Association SEA Semester programme, as well as members of the wider Wellington ocean community.

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A group presenting their whale conservation project

SEA Semester programme is a Boston University accredited study abroad programme, during which students explore a specific ocean-related theme. Groups of students presented their research and policy briefs at the event, which were threats to New Zealand’s marine biosecurity, the controversy surrounding the Foreshore and Seabed Act, climate change adaptation and mitigation, the Ross Sea and whale conservation. Their studies had a tripartite structure: the history of the issue, current impact and policy recommendations to remedy environmental concerns. The diverse backgrounds of students made for interesting interpretations of New Zealand’s ocean conservation.

Captain Elliot Rappaport shared the sailing, leadership and personal development skills that students work on during the programme. Dr Jeff Wescott, assistant professor of Anthropology at SEA, stressed the importance of interdisciplinary conversations when discussing ocean conservation. Dr Ben Harden, assistant professor of Oceanography at SEA, talked about the data collected by SSV Robert C. Seamans. Harden argued that there needs to be a wider collaborative effort between the programme and New Zealand organisations to put the data collected into action, which in turn could inform New Zealand environmental policy. The presentations produced interesting questions from the audience, and attendees had the opportunity to continue conversations after the presentations.

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Captain Elliot Rappaport describing life on board the SSV Robert C. Seamans

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Dr Jeff Wescott talking about New Zealand cultural studies

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Dr Ben Harden sharing insights on New Zealands oceanography

Some of the event guests joined the SEA students back on board the SSV Robert C. Seamans for dinner that evening. Students welcomed them with a tour of the boat showing them the wet and dry labs, duties on deck and the engine room – the full experience of life on board. Dinner on the boat also provided the students with the opportunity to ask guests questions relating to their conservation projects. We are grateful to have been involved in the students’ journey and are eager to build our relationship with the SEA programme in years to come. Below are some images from our time on board.

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Strengthening ocean resilience and governance is central to OneOceanNZ. This public discussion was a valuable transnational conversation about how we can better manage our oceans. Thank you to the members of SEA and the wider ocean community who joined the McGuinness Institute on Friday. It was a fantastic event which explored a number of pressing issues regarding ocean conservation and ecological protection.

We will be publishing videos of each presentation on our Youtube channel as they become available. If you would like to learn more about this event, or OneOceanNZ, email us at