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  • Writer's picturekatherine.mitchell

Drawing A Line In the Sand

MV Pembroke in Breaksea Sound Photo by Proff James J Bell

Fiordland Charters is a small charter boat business that has been operating charters in Fiordland for over 25 years. At the heart of the business is their vessel the MV Pembroke. The MV Pembroke was built in 1962, by the then government owned Tourism Holdings Company to accommodate day charters in Milford Sound. It was later sold and converted to run scuba diving charters. Fast forward to the early 2000’s MV Pembroke was given a new start at life and converted to what she is today, a live aboard charter boat based in Dusky/Breaksea Sound.

In 2018 my husband Paul and I took over the day to day operations of Fiordland Charters and Dusky/Breaksea Sound became our unofficial second home. Spending so much time in this incredible marine environment sparked a desire to give back and made us wonder how we could use our business to make a meaningful difference. Having noticed changes in Fiordland's climate over the last 5 years Paul sought historic climate data from the Dusky/Breaksea area only to find there was very little out there.

Realising that this lack of information was largely due to the geographic isolation and the resulting high costs of undertaking research Paul and I thought “how can we use this asset (MV Pembroke) and our time spent in the Fiords as a platform to undertake long term climate research in the area. We are here regularly, surely there is an opportunity for us to collect the data ourselves”. This question started the journey that has led to the forming of The Southern Fiordland Initiative.

This week is Conservation Week/Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa which focuses on how we can take action for nature. As charters operators, we are the kaitaki for the area we operate in. Our biggest personal concern is that if we do not map or take stock of the current climatic and ecological conditions in the Fiords how can change be quantified? How will we know when to take action? And how will we communicate the need for change to the wider public? Our core vision for this project is to draw a line in the sand, understand current conditions so informed decisions to protect and preserve this unique changing environment can be made.

Team SFI onboard MV Pembroke. Left to Right Dr Alice Rogers, Katherine Mitchell, Paul Mitchell, Proff James J. Bell

3 years on from first asking the question, we have begun drawing that line. We have teamed up with some incredible scientists, sentinel sights for the research have been set, temperature loggers installed and complimentary projects are in the pipeline. We have a lot of hurdles to cross, primarily finding a sustainable way to fund this research long term, but we are on our way.

Paul and Katherine sending the CTD down to collect temperature, depth and salinity samples

Last week Paul and I took our first official CTD samples, it was a small step but felt like we had begun our journey as citizen scientists and most importantly we have begun taking action for nature. If you are interested in learning more about what we are doing or contributing to our work, please have a look at our website, follow along on our journey or get in touch.


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