Sad to hear of the passing today of New Zealand marine conservation legend Wade Doak. Wade was a real inspiration to me – his relentless passion, commitment and advocacy for the marine environment was infectious. Recipient of the Queens Service Medal for marine conservation, in the early days he and Kelly Tarlton and others went spearfishing and treasure hunting – the stories of them collecting gold sovereigns from the Elignamite shipwreck at the Three Kings Islands are part of New Zealand folklore.
Later came his advocacy for protected areas – the Poor Knights – that magical ecosystem close to Wade’s home on the Tutukaka coast. And it worked – the Poor Knights is now one of the underwater wonders of the world. I had the privilege of working there with Wade and Jan’s son Brady, both New Zealand underwater champions, whilst filming Our Big Blue Backyard.
There were books – Wade was a prolific author – his stories of the underwater world and adventures around the Pacific – the Auckland Islands – the interactions he recorded with sea creatures – with whales and dolphins – were such good material for a kid who loves the sea. They showed what was possible – and with no fear.
Recently there was Wade’s writing in respect of kina barrens and the ecosystem being out of balance with too much pressure on the crayfish fishery in Northland. And his ongoing advocacy with his friend and peer, the late Roger Grace – another champion, for appropriate management of the Hapuka fishery – their traditional knowledge and advocacy on this species will inspire change. The knowledge of the underwater world he had was incredible.
Wade was an incredibly positive online presence in my life – his posts on social media were always informative and interesting and with a good environmental message. For me, he was up there with Jacque Cousteau, Steve Irwin, and Peter Blake – a real conservation hero – New Zealand’s Underwater Knight. We emailed on marine issues and interacted regularly on social media – but you know what – I never had the pleasure of meeting him face to face. If I did, I would have given him a big hug and said thank you. You are a hero.
A mighty totara has fallen. Rest in Peace and love to Jan, Brady and the family.