Winner winner kina dinner

If there is one seafood Rakino is particularly abundant in, it’s spiky kina.

The un-charismatic sea urchin has managed to stealthily encroach on sub tidal rocky reef crevices all around our island. This would be bearable if there were vast schools of old granddaddy snapper with blubbery lips thick enough to crack their carapaces open, but the snapper inhabiting the reefs are in the main part juveniles. Likewise, crayfish are functionally extinct in the Hauraki Gulf, which means they exist in insufficient numbers to fulfil their role in the ecosystem as a predator of kina.

A young snapper from above

As a consequence kina are steadily munching their way through swathes of kelp beds creating kina ‘barrens’, which is pretty much what it says on the tin; areas barren of everything except kina. Healthy kelp beds are our most important and most diverse coastal ecosystems. They are nursery areas for many commercially fished species as well as a food larder of smaller rocky reef fishes for those species. They should teem with life, and in areas of high protection, they do.

Common triple-fin
A smiley yellow-lipped parore

They are also a larder for the seabird species we see around Rakino, the shags, little blue penguins, reef herons, gannets, shearwater, and petrels. The seabirds eat fish and their guano feeds nutrients back into the kelp beds so the cycle can continue.

Kelp, yet to be munched by kina

This is the time of year to eat kina because they are supposedly sweeter and plumper. In some regions the collective wisdom is to harvest them when kowhai is in flower, in other areas when pohutukawa is in flower. Generally I would hazard the correct time to collect them is in Spring, at low-tide. If you were to adhere to Mātauranga Māori you would harvest them in the days immediately following a full moon.

The bag limit for kina is 50 per collector per day.

I’ve always been averse to kina; the descriptions of its flavour sounded frankly nasty, but I braved a mouthful after a recent snorkel and was pleasantly surprised. The orange roe is the part to eat, and its texture is quite firm. They were briny, lightly iodine flavoured, and mildly sweet. The immediate sensation was that I had eaten something tremendously healthy. Kina are tremendously healthy! Kina is a good source of Iodine, Selenium, Vitamin B6 and VitaminA; and a source of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Vitamin E.

I’ve noticed kina gradually creeping onto the menus of good restaurants around Auckland, in the same way they creep into every rock crevice available. I found this recent recipe from Al Brown on RNZ, so I’m sharing it in the hope you’ll all put some kina entrees on your Rakino summer menu this year. I advise a glove to protect your hand as you lever them off the rocks, and a bag to put your catch in. Don’t worry, they don’t move quickly…

Rakino fish-counting project to date..

A citizen science project funded by the Waiheke Local Board.

On Labour Weekend of 2022 Experiencing Marine Reserves held a workshop on Rakino Island, the purpose being to train the snorkeling participants on timed swim methodology in order to collect rocky reef species abundance and diversity data, to better understand the state of Rakino’s rocky reefs. Ten Rakino-ites attended, and EMR also brought ten of their volunteers over for training.

Rakino snorkelers

The funding for this was provided by the Waiheke Local Board, and Waiheke Resources Trust generously umbrella-ed our grant application for free, in the interests of encouraging an ongoing relationship with the Rakino community.
We’re very grateful for this. We were also able to purchase an underwater camera and some dive slates with the funding.

We spent the morning in the Hall learning to identify the rocky reef dwelling species we were likely to see around the Rakino coastline, and schooling up on health and safety. Both of these things are harder than they sound!

Seaweeds in Maori Garden Bay

After a shared lunch the intrepid snorkelers donned their wet-suits and headed for the Sandy bay transects EMR trainer Sophie had plotted out earlier. One group headed around the rocks in the direction of Maori Garden Bay, and the other headed out towards the variously named island in Sandy Bay. I stayed on the beach with the weighty responsibility of counting snorkelers in and out of the water, and generally keeping an watchful eye.

Parore in kelp

It was a chilly October day and a couple of snorkelers sensibly heeded the health and safety instructions and headed back to relative comfort of shore when they felt out of their depth. The team that headed in the direction of MGB had a more successful snorkel so we have abandoned the transect around the back of the Sandy Bay island in favour of a couple of less challenging yet more fruitful transects.

Happy snapper

Simon has since constructed a species identifying chart, and a form for participating snorkelers to record their fish counts on.
The hope is that over time we’ll accrue enough data that it can be mapped to show trends. Unfortunately this year didn’t start brilliantly weather-wise, so it’s not been easy to coordinate snorkelers, but we have a chat group established on FB messenger, and we may get one more fish count in before winter, at which point we’ll resume again in November. We’ve tried to get one fish count in per month. It requires ongoing practice to get the methodology right, and hopefully next season the weather will be calmer and the water less turbid.

Three young snapper in the kelp
Rocky reef fish habitat

I’ve also since learned to snorkel and identify the commonplace fish species so I can participate too, though I’m still learning how to wrangle the underwater camera!

The project is intended to be ongoing, and driven by volunteers. If anyone who couldn’t attend the workshop is keen to participate in future please let us know.


Riparian planting, storm water mitigation, slope stabilisation.

Exposed tree roots above cars parked down by the wharf.

The January 27th Auckland flood has me thinking about flood mitigation because storm water run-off has caused a bank to slip into a stream on our Auckland property, but also the culvert running onto our Rakino property has barely stopped running this year, and has consequently dug itself a stream channel which was once ephemeral, but now seems a permanent fixture.

We want to slow the water flow down so as to avoid scouring and flushing out of sediment, and we want to ensure the water is cleaned of any contaminants before it eventually ends up in the Hauraki Gulf. It’s always been the way to pass run off and storm water to the properties downhill, but I think we need to increasingly look at mitigating at the source, water collection, riparian planting, and establishing ‘cleaning’ plants like carex in wetland areas.

Here are a couple of interesting studies from Landcare Research for perusal..

EMR Labour Weekend Workshop

I have good news for the aspiring Rakino fish-counting snorkelers.
Many thanks to the Waiheke Local Board who have approved the grant we applied for to fund the Experiencing Marine Reserves workshop to be held on Rakino this coming Labour Weekend. Part of the grant includes funding for an underwater camera for documentation purposes, so with a bit of practise we’ll be able to show the non-snorkelers what lives in the rocky reefs around Rakino.

Also a big thanks to the excellent people at the Waiheke Resources Trust who supported our application. I’m confident we can build on that relationship in future.

Here is the link for anyone who is interested in Rakino-based citizen science;

It’s free to participants, and we’ll supply your lunch. All the details you need to know are in the link, but don’t hesitate to email me at if you require anything further.