Revolutionising ocean forecasting - the Moana Project

Published: 1 October 2018

The Tasman Sea is warming at one of the fastest rates on earth, bringing widespread implications for the marine environment.

Despite New Zealand having one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the world, there is limited information available to measure, monitor and predict how ocean warming will affect New Zealand waters.

The Moana Project has set out to address this.

Led by MetOcean Solutions scientist Moninya Roughan, the project has been granted $11.5 million over five years by the Government’s Endeavour Fund to establish greater knowledge of New Zealand’s waters.

The research will investigate ocean circulation, connectivity and marine heatwaves.

Low-cost ocean temperature sensors will be attached to fishing vessels travelling throughout New Zealand and will remain ‘on all boats at all times’ to collect oceanic data from.

Researchers will use the information to investigate the drivers and impacts of marine heatwaves and to create a reliable forecast system that predicts them.

It will be New Zealand’s first open-access oceanographic database that the public can view online via user-friendly data sets and web tools.

The project will also work on improving ocean circulation modelling by capturing wave, wind and current data.

As temperatures intensify, ocean currents move the heat around the globe and shift the chemical and nutrient make-up of the water column. Marine species relocate, larval flows shift across large expanses of water and kelp and coral habitats suffer.

Logging these dynamics and assessing their impact is hoped to prepare the industry for future events.

Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board will be contributing Maori knowledge to the project too, facilitating the exchange of oceanographic information between Te Ao Māori and western science.

"Our marine industries are often operating in the dark but through the Moana Project, all that will change,” said Roughan.

"This programme will create a new, dynamic and more integrated marine knowledge base - reducing uncertainty, maximising opportunity and preparing for future ocean changes.

MetOcean Solutions, Cawthron Institute, NIWA and several New Zealand seafood industry partners (including Seafood New Zealand, Deepwater Group, Paua Industry Council and Rock Lobster Industry Council) are collaborating on the project, along with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries, regional councils and several universities.

For more details, check out The Moana Project website.