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Tangaroa to advance Antarctic ecosystem knowledge

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Research Science and Technology

29 January 2008 Media Statement
Tangaroa to advance understanding of Antarctic ecosystems

Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson joined the Prime Minister today in celebrating the launch of the New Zealand International Polar Year Census of Antarctic Marine Life project and in wishing New Zealand’s research vessel Tangaroa well on its eight-week voyage to the Antarctic.

“The Tangaroa has travelled more than a million nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean, including seven voyages to Antarctica, and has contributed to substantial advances in our understanding of the seas around New Zealand,” Pete Hodgson said.

“The Tangaora is an important tool for building our scientific knowledge and New Zealand is making a significant contribution to these major international projects.

“The oceans are truly the final frontier of exploration. Without Tangaroa, New Zealand and overseas scientists would not have made a host of discoveries, including hundreds of new species (like bizarre carnivorous sponges) and vast underwater canyon systems. Tangaroa has discovered some 30 undersea volcanoes at least the size of Mt Ruapehu, and work is currently underway to understand the hazard posed by these volcanoes to the north-east of New Zealand, as well as the biodiversity they sustain.

“Tangaroa is a vital asset in New Zealand’s sustainable development: its regular fisheries surveys, for example, provide essential information for fisheries stock assessments.

“On this trip to the Ross Sea region scientists will investigate the distribution and abundance of Antarctica’s marine biodiversity by collecting samples of living organisms from the sea floor to the sea surface and capturing images down to 4000m, including in areas previously unexplored.

“This research will be used to help monitor the effects of climate change in the area.”

The 70m vessel was built in 1991 and since 2005 has been upgraded with state-of-the-art technology. It is owned and operated by NIWA and equipped for research in waters from the tropics to Antarctica.

ENDS

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