Moninya Roughan and MetOcean Solutions awarded $11.5 million NZ Endeavour grant

A new research project led by the NZ MetService’s oceanography division, MetOcean Solutions, will examine the role of ocean circulation on New Zealand’s seafood sector.

The Moana Project was awarded $11.5 million over five years from the NZ Government Endeavour Fund, which invests in scientific research that positively benefits New Zealand’s economy, environment, and society. The proposal was led by MetOcean Solutions’ Chief Scientist Professor and UNSW Associate Professor Moninya Roughan.

“The Tasman Sea is warming at one of the fastest rates on Earth, four times the global average,” said Professor Roughan, “yet we currently have limited ability to comprehensively measure, monitor and predict the state of New Zealand’s oceans. This programme will create a new, dynamic and more integrated marine knowledge base – reducing uncertainty, maximising opportunity and preparing for future ocean changes.”

The Moana Project is a cross-institutional programme involving oceanographic research organisations, universities, and end-users in industry and government across New Zealand. The team will also collaborate with international experts from UNSW Sydney and the United States.

The project will improve understanding of coastal ocean circulation, connectivity and marine heatwaves to provide information that will support sustainable growth of the seafood industry (Māori, fisheries and aquaculture). Project partners will apply the internet of things concept to develop a low-cost ocean temperature profiler that will be deployed by the fishing communities ‘on all boats, at all times’. New Zealand’s first open-access ocean forecast system will be delivered by developing new ocean circulation models using a combination of advanced numerics, modern genomics and data from smart ocean sensors.

The project will investigate the drivers and impacts of marine heatwaves so that they can be predicted, and investigate ocean transport pathways and population connectivity of seafood species. This project will provide a step-change in the oceanic information available to the seafood sector and the broader community, accessible through the open-access user-friendly datasets and tools developed.

Professor Roughan says: “We are partnering with the seafood sector to develop a low-cost ocean sensor that will revolutionise ocean data collection. The sensors will be deployed throughout New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone with support from the commercial fishing sector.”

The Endeavour Fund aims to promote Vision Mātauranga, the New Zealand Government’s science policy framework to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge (mātauranga), resources and people for the benefit of all New Zealanders. The Moana Project is anchored in mātauranga Māori through the partners’ relationship with the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board, facilitating exchange of oceanographic knowledge between Māori and western science.