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Collaboration Between Filmmakers And Scientists Leads To Discovery Of New Fish At a Remote NZ Island

In 2015, factual television producers NHNZ and scientists from Massey University Auckland, Auckland Museum, and University of Waikato worked together to get a film crew and scientific researchers to Rangitāhua-The Kermadec Islands.

The Kermadec Islands lie approximately 1000km northeast of New Zealand’s North Island and their remote location means the area hasn’t been highly researched.

NHNZ went to Rangitāhua to film an episode for the second season of their highly popular show Our Big Blue Backyard for TVNZ, funded by NZ on Air and scientists joined the expedition to study the archipelago’s biodiversity.

As a result of this collaboration between the natural history filmmakers and scientists, three species of fish were recorded for the first time at Rangitāhua, which are additions to the fishes that occur in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Rangitahua is expensive and difficult to reach for scientists, so this collaboration was a perfect opportunity to piggy-back on the NHNZ voyage and build on our knowledge on the biodiversity of these remote islands. It is a great example of where a collaboration has unexpected but positive outcomes for both partners,” says Dr Thomas Trnski, Head of Natural Sciences at Auckland Museum, and science leader for the voyage.

A team of 17 including crew, scientists and NHNZ documentary filmmakers were aboard the research vessel Braveheart which travelled to the pristine sub-tropical arc, while NHNZ filmed their series and scientists carried out research.

Our Big Blue Backyard executive producer Judith Curran said she and her team are thrilled with this outcome.

“NHNZ’s Our Big Blue Backyard film-making team is super proud to have played a part in the discovery of these fish species in Kermadec waters. For an NZ on Air funded series to be able to connect with a huge New Zealand audience AND collaborate with scientists in this way, in such a special corner of the planet, is as good as it gets,” she says.

The discovery of the fish species and the collaboration between natural history filmmakers has been written into an extensive report, which was in Scientific Reports on February 21, 2020 (

Lead author Dr Libby Liggins from Massey University said, “Our collaboration evidences the value of natural history footage, other unconventional sources, as well as unlikely collaborations in generating new knowledge regarding biodiversity and change – as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says ‘we all have a role to play’”.

Below is a clip showing the accidental discovery of three fishes caught on video.

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