Is it possible to help the shellfish
beds recover? Can we cut down on litter pollution of beaches?
Can we prevent the loss of protective sand dunes? Is our local
beach in trouble or headed that way?
All these questions can be answered if the communities who live
near beaches decide to participate in regular scientific sampling
of the resources. In communities like Cheltenham Beach and schools
like Howick College, surveying shellfish beds
has become an important and enjoyable activity, one that may well
lead to a recovery of these endangered shellfish. People in the
Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Auckland Regions are getting together
on weekends to replant sand dunes with native vegetation as a
buffer zone against waves. Other groups, often with as many as
500 people, head off to clean litter from beaches and find clues
to its origins.
These actions may prove to be important, as the condition of our
beaches are indicators of the health of our seas. Helping beaches
recover may be a first step in beginning the general recovery
of our oceans.
The Ministry of Fisheries, Regional Councils, City Councils, and
conservation groups like Island Care Trust and Sea Keepers (Charitable
Trust) will help communities throughout New Zealand establish
the condition of their beaches and shellfish beds. They will use
the information to ascertain the national state of the environment.
That way you'll be sure that the information you collect today
will be there years from now, letting everyone know exactly how
the beaches and shellfish populations (and the health of the nearshore
environments) have been doing.
Professional biologists from local, city, regional and national
organisations are urged to participate in these surveys, and lend
professional scientific guidance to the community and school projects.
Beach Keeping offers opportunities to develop integrated learning
themes within the New Zealand Science and Social Studies Curriculums
It is especially useful for requirements in: Making Sense of the
Living World, Making Sense of the Physical World, Making Sense
of Planet Earth & Beyond. The projects help teachers develop
a cohesive science theme related to community use and care of
Students learn to conduct public opinion polls, organise a scientific
expedition, take scientific samples, draw maps, handle and measure
specimens, record data, construct a hypothesis and test it, analyse
data, develop spreadsheets and graphs, write reports and network
scientific information on-line with a national and an international
Beach Keeping will work best when schools and community groups
conduct the research together and the project becomes an annual
social event. It offers an excellent student/ teacher/ parent
activity and, at the same time, provides a sense of community
responsibility towards important environmental goals. Litter on
beaches devalues these important community resources, detracts
from their aesthetic enjoyment, and is a danger to wildlife.
Knowing what is littering the beaches is the first step in prevention
of littering. The shellfish are biological indicators of the health
of the near-shore waters. In the course of studying them, community
members begin to understand how their day to day actions may either
harm or enhance their natural surroundings.
Your studies will enable your local and regional councils and
resource managers to make important decisions about how to protect
beaches from litter and how to regulate the use of shellfish and
Most importantly, the community will have the opportunity to participate
in the future of their coastal resources and improve the chances
for a healthier and more productive ocean environment.
Regular shoreline surveys are the only way to determine how the
coastal environment is changing. The costs involved with Government
or professional scientists doing these surveys over a large area
are simply too great and so they are not done. When communities
complain that their shellfish have gone or the sand is vanishing
from their beach, scientists can seldom provide any real evidence
as to what really happened. Without repeated surveys, doing anything
constructive to help becomes sheer guesswork.
Just as the census helps planners assess the changes that are going on in our population, a census of shellfish, litter, and dune habitats - especially over large areas of New Zealand's coastline - can provide invaluable tools for resource and community planning with real benefits to the people who enjoy our beaches and our seafoods.