School children help with important marine pest survey

Last Updated : 20 Apr 2023
Asian Paddle Crab Programme 2

When an Asian paddle crab was spotted in Aotea / Great Barrier’s Whangapoua estuary three years ago, Okiwi School leapt into action with Envirokiwi to monitor the invasive marine pest.

With Aotea/Great Barrier Local Board supporting the project through its Okiwi ecology programme, the school got a permit to strategically trap in the estuary to monitor for crabs, work it’s been carrying out since 2020 for five weeks between October and March.

This summer Kaitoke School came along for a day, and Mulberry School will take part next season.

“Ākonga (student) learning is enhanced when it’s relevant and authentic like the monitoring,” Okiwi School principal Colin Griffiths says.

“Tamariki are excited to participate in helping to protect our precious moana taiao (natural ocean) and learn something about our estuary each time they monitor the catch.

“Opportunities to work with local experts and organisations on environmental projects is invaluable learning and grows informed kaitiaki for the future.”

Although no pest crabs were found in the first years, three were found in the most recent season, proving the initial 2020 sighting was not a one-off.

Asian paddle crabs prey on native crabs and shellfish, and can produce thousands of eggs more than once a year. Adults can swim long distances and because larvae can survive for four weeks in harsh conditions, it’s easy for the population to spread. Recreational activities can also help spread larvae.

“It’s great to see our tamariki learning about the importance of our marine eco-system while helping to monitor for pests,” board chair Izzy Fordham says.

“We’re pleased to be able to support this project and grateful for the time and hard work that Thomas (from Envirokiwi) and Okiwi School have contributed.”

How you can help

Asian paddle crabs look like native paddle crabs but have sharp spines/spikes on their shells and claws. If you see or catch one, take a photo, note its location and report it to (Aotea residents only) and (all of Tāmaki Makaurau).

Do not return the crabs to the water – dead or alive – instead dispose of them humanely by freezing.

More information and images for help with identification can be found here.

Photo credit: Colin McLay, University of Canterbury

Photo credit: Colin McLay, University of Canterbury

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