Research Project

Kōhanga pēpi kōura

Creating pēpi kōura nurseries to protect against a changing climate

This action research project supported the restoration of our taonga species, kōura (red rock lobster or crayfish), in a changing climate.

Puerulus, or pēpi kōura. Image supplied by Tauranga Moana Iwi Customary Fisheries Trust.

Existing research on kōura has been primarily focussed on commercial fisheries, which are governed and assessed by western science. In contrast, our research sought to support the restoration of our wild kōura population, by activating kaitiakitanga and mātauranga Māori. Our research provided an active and protective tāngata whenua voice into the effects of climate change on kōura.

In Tauranga Moana, kōura numbers are declining. Climate impacts such as ocean acidification likely weaken and thin kōura shells, making them vulnerable to predation. As the impacts of climate change intensify, temperature rises, ocean acidity increases and sea levels rise, efforts to support our vulnerable taonga species are ever more critical.

Our research helped build knowledge, capacity, skills and experience in kōura restoration for our iwi. We collected pēpi kōura (baby crayfish) from Te Awanui (Tauranga Moana Harbour) and raised them in an aquaculture facility to help understand the effects of climate change. When the kōura are young they are extremely vulnerable, so we sought to find solutions to help restore the declining kōura population. Our research has provided a greater understanding of local kōura populations and life cycles, while observing the kōura maramataka in relation to Tauranga Moana, recapturing an important Māori knowledge base.

Monthly fieldwork helped us assess climate variables like temperature, current, salinity and acidity, and their impact on the kōura population. Wānanga and interviews with kaumātua, whānau and other experts also helped us glean further understanding of environmental tohu and climate changes over time.

The Tauranga Moana Iwi Customary Fisheries Trust operates primarily in a voluntary capacity. A major priority of the Trust is to grow knowledge in marine research, particularly from a Te Ao Māori perspective. The Trust also manages the Mahinga Mātaitai Reserve in Tauranga and are a key part of the collective Bay of Plenty customary fisheries forum, Mai i ngā Kurī ā Whārei ki Tihirau. This research presented an opportunity to inform decision-making for the local mātaitai reserve and for New Zealand fisheries.

Read a plain-language summary of this project’s findings here.