Poachers be warned — Chester is keeping a close watch over the Kāpiti Marine Reserve.
Chester is the latest marine reserve remote camera monitoring station to be placed high on the Kāpiti Island ridge line above Onepoto Bay as part of the Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve Trust's Kāpiti Kiatiaki Webcam Network.
The Onepoto Bay camera station has been named in memory of the late Chester Bellis, a well-known local diver and marine reserve advocate.
"Chester was a big supporter of the reserve when it was first proposed in the early 1990s and so the Guardians thought it fitting to name this camera station in his memory," Guardians Trust co-founder and local kaitiaki Karl Webber said.
"He would be very proud of the work the Guardians have done over the past five years to ensure the reserve is properly managed so that it continues to provide benefits now and for future generations to enjoy."
The new camera station has already proved its worth with several incidents observed in the western reserve via the station over the summer, including a recent incident where a diver was observed handing a catch bag to a person on board a small boat inside the western reserve.
The Department of Conservation has issued a public call for help to identify the boat and its occupants.
According to the statement from DoC, "the Kapiti-Wellington DOC office are wanting assistance with inquiries around the pictured vessel and associated persons seen near Kāpiti Island on 28 February 2021. If you are able to assist with identification of the two individuals on board please email firstname.lastname@example.org directly. All emails will be treated confidentially."
The Guardians have now established four camera monitoring stations on Kāpiti Island with a fifth camera station on Paekakariki hill about to be launched.
The project has been supported by local technologies company Ground Truth, DoC, local iwi, the Waiorua Bay Trust and the Kāpiti coast community with funding provided by organisations such as the Wellington Community Trust, the US Embassy and private donors.
"The Guardians are incredibly grateful to all the people and organisations that have supported this project over the past four years," Guardians chairman Ben Knight said.
"We now have close to 95 per cent visual coverage of both the eastern and western sections of the Kāpiti marine reserve, allowing us to detect, monitor and deter any incidents of illegal fishing within the reserve.
"The data we are collecting is also proving invaluable to the local DoC team who use it to inform when and where they conduct on-water patrols as well as gathering video evidence for use in any prosecutions while they mount an on-water response to any suspicious incidents such as occurred on February 28."
To view the time lapse of images captured from the camera mounted above Arapawaiti point at the north end of Kāpiti Island, see https://groundtruth.co.nz/stations/