Lewis (Lew) Deans Ritchie March 4, 1945-March 5, 2018

Lew Ritchie, retired marine biologist from Matapōuri Bay died on March 5 following complications of Alzheimer's disease and general ill health.

He had been staying in Gisborne and enjoying time with family. A memorial service will be held at Matapōuri Hall on Saturday.

Lew was born in Fairlie and grew up in Tekapo and Wellington, where he discovered scuba diving.


He attended Victoria University in Wellington in the late 1960s and graduated in 1969 with a masters in science thesis on butterfish. He joined Fisheries Management Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Wellington after graduation.

Cold water diving in Wellington led to warm water diving in Northland for Lew and his wife Ann when they moved to Matapōuri. Lew soon 'created a job for himself' in Whangārei by establishing the Northland branch of the Fisheries Management Division.

Lew assisted in both the establishment and management of marine reserves in the north of NZ including the Poor Knights Marine Reserve. He was the first chairman of the management committee for the Goat Island to Okakari Marine Reserve (Leigh) in the 1980s before the takeover by DoC from 1987. He also strongly promoted the establishment of a Three Kings Marine Reserve.

Lew was a strong advocate for both the protection of mangroves as fish habitat and for aquaculture of finfish such as snapper and kingfish. He made a trip to Japan to visit fish farms. Lew was involved in major studies of the ecology of Northland harbours including Whangārei, Rangaunu and Pārengarenga.

In the 1970s to early 1980s he was publishing extensively on issues such as fisheries management, the ecology of Whangārei Harbour including encrustation of structures and boats by calcareous tube worms, finfish farming, commercial fishing of spider crab at the Auckland Islands, and mangrove protection. He wrote and presented evidence to courts as an advocate of marine fisheries and biodiversity.

In the latter part of his career Lew spent considerable time in Indonesia on contract with the Indonesian government to prepare a Marine National Park Management Plan. He also served on the Northland Conservation Board for the Department of Conservation.

For many years, Lew owned and operated a dive charter boat called Wairangi. He was passionate about sharing his knowledge and love for the sea and enjoyed experiencing the excitement people got for the undersea world. He shared his knowledge of the coast, islands and marine life with many people.

Lew is survived by his daughters, Miriam and Jacqui, and his grandsons, Tom and James.


A memorial service will be held at Matapōuri Hall on Saturday, May 26, at 2pm for everyone wanting to pay their respects and celebrate Lew's life.