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Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) Programme Info

Imagine snorkeling amongst a dense kelp forest, surrounded by dozens of fascinating new life forms, a frenzy is created on top of the water, someone has spotted a crayfish, everyone is taking turns to dive under to get a glimpse of a Cray crouching under a ledge. Students come up gasping for breath, but feel rest assured by their adult, buddy and bright yellow body board for time out. Some large snapper cruise past to see what the fuss is about. Gurgle sounds come from a snorkel, an eagle ray rests on the sand below. The kids are easy to spot in their bright yellow & black wetsuits. The parents come in buzzing, the kids madly tell their mates about how big the snapper they saw was and how many different fish they saw, this is normal conversation during Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme delivery.



New Zealand is surrounded by ocean - our oceans are a national treasure for many reasons, but we have begun to see a national decline in many of our fish species. It is only recently that we have begun to understand the impacts this has on the rest of our marine environment. Only by working together as a nation towards understanding more about our marine environment can we minimise our impacts upon it and conserve what we have for future generations.

Marine education is vital in achieving this goal. Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) provides quality first-hand marine education experiences and initiatives to schools and communities throughout New Zealand.  The aim of the EMR programme is to raise awareness, understanding and involvement in marine conservation.

What is EMR?

Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) is a national programme of experiential learning about marine conservation.  The programme is under the auspices of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust. EMR’s independence, professional delivery, marine reserves focus and provision of a range of learning styles make it unique within New Zealand.  Since its introduction in Northland in 2002, programme uptake has continued to increase throughout the country.  The Department of Conservation (DOC) is a foundation partner of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust, and has supported the development of the EMR programme since 2002.The Tindall Foundation now also supports the programme’s national expansion.

Our main focus:

  1. Marine Education

·         Providing quality marine education opportunities to schools, communities and professionals.

  1. Marine Conservation

·         Increasing awareness, encouraging action and support for marine conservation in New Zealand.

  1. Empowering Communities

·         Providing schools and their communities with the expertise and knowledge to experience their local marine environment first-hand, leading to local communities understanding marine conservation issues in their local area and fostering kaitiakitanga.

Our Offer

EMR coordinators offer guidance, direction and coordination of classroom exercises and field trips to the ocean. We also provide snorkel equipment, instruction, resources and snorkel risk management. For many students, it is their first time using snorkel gear. EMR snorkelling experiences require a 1:2 adult/student ratio for year 8’s and below, with the result being the active involvement of many family and community members. Most aspects of the Northland delivery to schools is offered for free thanks to the sponsorship and support from a wide range of organisations.

The EMR concept is the essence of the programme:

  1. Introduction to marine biodiversity
  2. Investigation of local marine area
  3. Marine reserve experience
  4. Comparisons between local area and fully protected area
  5. Action for the marine environment

The EMR Programme Outcomes:                

  1. Promotes education for sustainability & environmental enlightenment
  2. Information transfer and opportunities for community development
  3. Inspires action for the marine environment
  4. Builds safe snorkelling skills
  5. Increased awareness, knowledge and involvement in marine conservation
  6. Empowerment to make a difference in tomorrow’s management of the marine environment
  7. Media opportunities
  8. Attitude change
  9. Promotes youth leadership
  10. Increased support for marine conservation
  11. Hands on educational opportunities for ‘learning by doing’ learners
  12. Specialist snorkel programmes for different ages & abilities
  13. Participants learn about marine life
  14. Promotes ethic of Kaitiakitanga
  15. Embraces Mori culture


After experiencing their local marine environment and the fully protected marine reserve, participants often lead action projects and become kaitiaki of their marine environment. Over the years students have been involved in a range of action projects, from writing letters to their local authorities and Members of Parliament, presentations in front of assembly and public events, investigating where marine protected areas would go and addressing local issues in their community such as sand dune erosion.

Where and when does EMR operate?

The EMR programme has been operational in Northland since 2002 and available to other parts of New Zealand since 2004. Go to to find National contact details. Due to the seasonal nature of the programme, it is offered in terms 1 and 4 when the weather is warmer and more suitable for snorkelling.  Contact EMR at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to find out more.

Who is involved?

EMR Coordinators, teachers, students, parents, community members, government organisations, non-profit organisations... and anyone with an interest in marine conservation education!!


The Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust (MTSCT) – Ngā Maunga ki te Moana is a legal charitable entity based in Northland, and was formed in 2002 as an umbrella organisation for the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR - and Whitebait Connection (WBC – programmes.  

The formation of our Trust brings together an extensive array of professional skills and capabilities. Within our group there is a balance of youth and experience, science, social science, educational and leadership accomplishment. Collectively amongst the Trustees of MTSCT we have decades of educational, science and business experience. We have extensive networks and professional relationships to call upon.   We have a vision of how education for sustainability can develop and play an important role in our communities. Our programmes make a unique and significant contribution to environmental education.

For more info check out: or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Sponsors