July 5, 2019

Farewell to Roger Grace

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:26 am by Chris

Below is the text of a tribute to my friend and mentor Roger Grace that I wrote for the EcoQuest Facebook page. Roger was one of a generation of marine pioneers, most of whom are now in their seventies: the issues about which he was so passionate are only going to become more important in the future. It’s lovely to see a new generation (people like EMR and Fish Forever) taking up the torch, but just as important to remember those who got us started, and how hard they had to fight to even establish marine conservation as a valid idea. 

Dear friends, we’re very sad to relate the passing of Dr Roger Grace on Friday morning.

Roger was a writer, a superb photographer, a passionate diver, and a lifelong advocate for conservation. His greatest passion was marine conservation, a field in which he worked tirelessly, both on his own and through his involvement with groups like Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, Whangateau Harbourcare and Experiencing Marine Reserves. To give just one example of his important advocacy work, Roger’s underwater photos help to document the wanton destruction caused by “wall of death” drift nets, as part of a wider Greenpeace campaign that eventual led to that fishing technique being banned. He was a continual thorn in the side of those who would have exploited New Zealand’s marine environment for short-term gain, and a tireless campaigner for marine reserves and the protection of the wider marine environment. In recent years he lent his expertise to the SeaChange consultation process, and pushed hard for an increased coverage of marine protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf.

Never one to blow his own trumpet, Roger often insisted that his QSM stood for “Quite Silly Man”. The QSM was one of many accolades from both society at large and professional bodies, including a Forest and Bird “Old Blue” award for a lifetime’s service to conservation, and in 2018 the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society’s John Morton Medal for an outstanding contribution to the advancement of marine conservation and sustainability in New Zealand. Awards and medals notwithstanding, Roger was always willing to talk to any group who wanted to hear from him, and was a regular feature of EcoQuest’s trips to both Goat Island and the Poor Knights (for which service he often “forgot” to invoice us).

Roger was also a very dear friend to many of us at EcoQuest. He was a lifelong friend and diving buddy of Sally-Jane and Susi, and a friend and mentor to Chris and Rebekah. When we ran a snapper DRP in 2012 and 2013, Roger was an enthusiastic supporter of the project and took photos of the fieldwork which continue to grace our brochure to this day. He was humble, charming, hugely knowledgeable and passionate to the very end. We will miss him tremendously.

A mighty tōtara has fallen in the forest.

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