Hop on a plane to Los Angeles, Chile or even Japan, and the entire journey, bar a few scattered islands, charts a course over the Pacific Ocean. The ocean’s vastness is hard to conceive.
Containing 50 percent of the world’s free water, the Pacific borders more than 40 different countries. The prevalence of earthquakes and volcanoes around the Pacific Rim (more than 75 percent of the world's active and dormant volcanoes and about 80 percent of the world's biggest earthquakes occur here) accounts for this giant arc being named The Ring of Fire.
Right at the bottom of the Pacific are these glorious islands of eruptions, earthquakes and great natural beauty that we call home. Our coastline runs through fiords and bays and coves to a length of more than 14,000 km – making it one of the longest coastlines in the world.
It’s perhaps not unsurprising that the sea runs in our blood. The earliest New Zealanders were sea-faring people and up until the 1940s the only way to get to and from New Zealand was by sea (Jean Batten made the first solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936.) At every turn, the glorious Pacific Ocean awaits us and we don’t need any excuse to play there.
The tiny settlement of Mahia sits on the East Coast, south of Gisborne. Here, at my husband’s family’s tiny ramshackle bach, we have enjoyed many a Waitangi weekend over the years. The rhythm of this weekend is all about engaging in some form of fishing – wiggling our toes in the sand for pipi at low tide, setting flounder nets in the estuary, diving for paua or crays, and surf casting off the beach for kahawai, snapper, elephant fish, red cod and the odd unwelcome shark.
As the clock rolls around to bring us another national day, we have good cause to celebrate our place in the mighty Pacific Ocean. Our seas remain some of the richest marine environments, containing more than 1250 fish species and more than 3660 species of shellfish. One hundred and twenty three different fish species are commercially fished in New Zealand, but most of us know and enjoy only a handful.
Waitangi Day is the perfect opportunity to honour the ocean and take the pressure off these favourite species by stepping out of our comfort zones to enjoy some of the lesser-known, delicious fish that abound in our waters. Whatever the catch of the day, an amazing meal awaits.