Government funding for the project’s Te Tiro Moana (Eyes on the Ocean) team, which leads the Mangōpare sensor data collection under the five-year project, ends in March next year.

The low-cost Mangōpare sensor is a robust, simple device that attaches to fishing gear. With no handling involved other than attachment of the sensor, data can be collected daily on the numerous fishing trips that occur in New Zealand waters.

To attract continued funding, it is essential to make the temperature data collected by nearly 300 fishing vessels throughout the country’s oceans publicly accessible, according to Te Tiro Moana team lead Dr Julie Jakoboski.

The project is led by MetOcean Solutions and supported by Seafood New Zealand’s Deepwater and Inshore Councils, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management Co, NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council and the Pāua Industry Council.

The project has found that for the last two years, average sea surface temperatures have been 1.6 degrees Celsius warmer than long-term records in all 12 project forecast regions dotted around the New Zealand coastline. The technology and close cooperation between the science and commercial fishing sectors is world-leading and is being closely followed internationally.

“New Zealand has by far the best collection of coastal temperature data in the world because of this programme and fishers have been core to this. Now the data is going to be available for people to use,” says Jakobowski.

“It’s widely recognised that our oceans which are vital to the wellbeing of people everywhere, are changing and warming. If we don’t understand the detail of that change, we can’t plan its consequences. In 10 years, we are really going to need information on changes over five, 10 years.

“Worldwide the Mangōpare ocean sensor programme is recognised as an exemplar that other countries should be emulating. There are many countries out there watching us to see what happens next."

The bare minimum estimated annual cost to maintain the sensor programme is $400,000.

“Four hundred thousand would provide a base programme to keep the data pathway running and get sensors recalibrated and redeployed to vessels after two years,” Jakoboski says. “I get emails from the world’s top oceanographers saying this needs to continue, that we cannot let this stop.”

Jakoboski was invited to present at an oceans symposium, Map the Gaps, in Monaco early last month, attended by some of the key organisations that support ocean research.

FishServe, the industry’s independent administrative entity, is also supportive to the extent it proposes getting the sensor data on to its platform.

“We have a connection and a direct line of engagement with all fishers and all fishing companies,” FishServe Chief Executive Caroline Read says.

“It makes sense to look for a way to provide a long-term and cost-efficient way to share the information so that it becomes part of the fishing industry’s decision-making process.”

This is an excerpt from a longer story that will feature in the December 2023 issue of Seafood Magazine.