New display about the Bay of Plenty oil spill

A few weeks ago, we have created a new display in NatureSpace, our Discovery Centre on Level 2. The subject of the display is the Rena Oil Spill off the coast of Tauranga.

This display has gone in to create interest, and inform the public about this event. This is truly a significant disaster on a huge scale. What many don’t realize is just how massive the effects of this oil spill are and how long this will continue to affect the marine environment in the area, that is, probably many decades.

Several local species are at risk of becoming extinct. The display hopes to give a bit of perspective to people by showing that it is not only the birds seen on the news, but the whole ecosystem that is being impacted. Many smaller organisms like plankton, shellfish and crabs/crays will be wiped out from the area and will continue to be affected for many years to come. Marine plants like seaweed will also be wiped out. Many fish will die, but hopefully many will also flee when they sense the chemicals in the water. Marine mammals like seals, dolphins and whales will also be impacted by this spill as the toxic oil will poison them and their food supply.

Display about the Rena oil spill in NatureSpace. Photograph by Raymond Thorley. Te Papa

Display about the Rena oil spill in NatureSpace. Photograph by Raymond Thorley. Te Papa

Reefs are like the rainforests of the marine world. Astrolabe reef was a popular diving reef where divers were treated to a great array of marine life. Reefs support such abundant life that incidents like oil spills or reef destruction have more devastating effects than would be caused in ecosystems supporting less life.

 The display cases are just a small sample of the life that is being killed in the region. The signage informs a little about what is going on and provides some of the statistics from Te Papa’s own workers who are there helping to identify the species that are being found. There is also a screen opposite the display showing a slideshow with some of the work that is going on. Just be aware that it is quite graphic.

The display is planned for 3 months initially, with regular updates. We, the hosts, are also a source of information, so please ask us your questions when you come have a look!

This is a new step for NatureSpace and we are in unchartered territory. We hope that this is going to be popular and pave the way for future displays that reflect what is happening in the natural world. We will gladly accept any feedback you have, so please do let us know in the comments below, at mail@tepapa.govt.nz, or in person when you come and visit!

More about our Discovery Centres
Things for kids at Te Papa

By the NatureSpace team

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