Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life


Selachimorpha, the Shark Sock

Selachimorpha is the scientific name for the modern shark.  This sock is dedicated to the shark and has been designed to highlight another of the reasons why we need to care about how our fish is harvested from the ocean.

Selachimorpha socks

Shark fins are represented by the lace and solid triangles that swim across the surface of your sock.

An Eye of Partridge heel suggests rough shark skin.

Selachimorpha socks

Knitted top down, this pattern comes with instructions for small, medium and large size.  Both written and charted  instructions are included.  Because this is a lace pattern, strategic selection needle size and yarn weight is suggested as the most effective method for change in sizing.  I have also included instructions for heel length and where to stop for the foot length on each size.

The fitting for this sock is generous, with a 20cm/8″ circumference in the leg, unstretched, in the medium size.

Download your free pattern here!

Happy Knitting!



Will that be fins with your tuna?

If you are one of the lovely people who have been reading my blog for over a year, you will know that I have deep concerns about the sustainability of the ocean’s health, and with it, its inhabitants.

Today I’d like to talk about sharks.

Why does does the future of sharks concern me?  My main issue is that sharks are being killed mostly as bycatch.  Their lives are being wasted, the health of the ocean compromised simply because fishing companies have not come up with a better way to catch only the fish they are targeting.  So many sharks (and rays) are being killed as bycatch that today around 25% of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.   To ban shark finning is one thing, but if sharks continue to be caught as bycatch, have we done any good?

Sharks were not on my list to talk about at the time I was researching for my next post on Sustain the Sea.  They did not hit high on my radar because I did not know about the issues surrounding them.  I was going to talk about tuna,  until I stumbled across some very revealing information during my research that indicates a strong connection between sharks and tuna.

I figure that many people do know about the concerns around sharks and why fishing companies should be acting more responsibly in the way they harvest from the ocean.  If you do want a quick update, have a look at this info sheet from the New Zealand Shark Alliance.  It addresses New Zealand concerns around sharks in particular, but these issues are not just limited to New Zealand.  Some of you may be wondering why I’m addressing this issue when it seems the party is already over – lots of countries are banning shark finning, including New Zealand right?  Well… read on and find out more.

To rewind  to the point where my interest in sharks began:  I came across this short video.  It’s a fascinating presentation from a researcher for the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, an organisation that appears to be making very genuine efforts to introduce sustainable practices into the tuna fishing industry.

What I did not know until I started this research is that certain species of fish love to aggregate under large floating objects. This includes tuna and some species of shark.  The fishing industry has capitalised on this trait and created Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).  FADs assist in the capture of up to 40% of the world’s tuna take.  Unfortunately, not only are sharks taken by the nets that then come along to scoop up the tuna, but they are also ensnared in the netted structures that hold these FADs in place.  The conservative kill rate for accidental entanglement is estimated at between 500,000 to one million sharks in the Indian ocean alone (see link for more information).

This infographic from the ISS Foundation is a stark illustration of how many sharks are killed from tuna fishing around the world.

It’s not just FADs that catch sharks though.  The Shark Trust provides a comprehensive outline of how commercial fishing practices ensnare enormous amounts of bycatch, in which sharks are included.  It is estimated in a recent report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (a study involving the collaboration of over 300 experts from 64 nations) that over 100,000,000 sharks (that’s 100 million) are killed every year.  Because of this extensive slaughter,  25% of shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction due to overfishing.  Tuna fishing is strongly implicated as one of the main reasons why sharks are caught.

The question pounding in my head after reading the research I have linked to you was:  how do we stop the accidental capture of sharks?  Unfortunately due to the lucrative returns that can be obtained from the sale of shark fins, and from what I can see (and I hope I am wrong), no penalties exist for capturing sharks, this bycatch is not unwelcomed by fishing companies.  There is therefore not a lot of incentive not to catch sharks.   Preventing sharks from being finned alive at sea is one thing, but if we can prevent them from being captured at all, isn’t that a better solution?  It also occurs to me that banning the sale of fins is not going to prevent the sharks from being captured in the first place, and then dumped back into the ocean dead, or brought to shore as the case may be, unless more accurate methods of fishing are employed.

In addition to their fins, sharks are also used in other ways.  Have a look here and here to see how we use shark products in everyday life.

I used to think tuna with its “dolphin friendly” logo was a good thing, and it made me feel okay about buying it.  Not any more.  Perhaps we should be looking for tins of tuna with “shark friendly” on them as well?

The good news is that a lot of research is being made made to reduce bycatch.  Also have a good look at the ISS website in particular to find what resolutions have been made in relation to tuna fishing.  This link will take you to the Summary of Resolutions taken by participating companies.  Those fishing companies are to be applauded for joining the organisation and introducing these moves.  I notice only one New Zealand fishing company on that list.

Will I be eating tuna in future?  The answer is still no.  Not until I know for certain that tuna stocks are being managed sustainably, and that my serve of tuna does not come with a figurative side of shark.  And in addition to avoiding shark fin soup, I will also be looking more closely at things I buy for bywords for shark product.

In tribute to the shark, watch out for tomorrow’s free pattern release of my salute to the shark:  Selachimorpha.


Please note that the thoughts above are my personal “key” conclusions, and I have not attempted to comprehensively address the issues – it would take a much longer article than what I have written!



The flipside

It’s used extensively in Asian cuisine, and its cultivation is a major industry in many Asian countries.  Ancient cultures all over the world made good use of it as a food source.

Nowadays, we know it as a primary ingredient in sushi, the source of agar jelly, and the ‘gum’ used as a thickening agent in a lot of foods, even in ice cream.

Perhaps a little less known is its use in cosmetics, fertilisers and medicine.

It comes in an incredible variety of shapes, colours and forms.  What am I talking about?

Bet you’ve already guessed: it’s seaweed.

Under the sea

We really should not call it a ‘weed’.  The very name connotes something not useful, a nuisance that should be eliminated.  Actually, it has a lot of uses and valuable properties, apart from being a very tasty and nutritious food.  Sea plants would probably be a better word?

Because I spent many years living in Asia, I got to appreciate how delicious seaweed can be.  Some of my favourite food is seaweed salad, seaweed soup and nori sheets. Seaweed in noodle dishes, and as an additional ingredient with mussels, cooked in a broth of butter, garlic and white wine, is truly scrumptious.  You can even bake fish in kelp pockets.  I once had a fresh seaweed salad in a Japanese restaurant, made from at least four varieties of seaweed.  Not only was it very attractive, but it tasted like nothing I had ever eaten (not at all like the often highly coloured green stuff in supermarkets labelled “seaweed salad”), with incredible textures and subtle flavours, and lovely tangy little bursts of seawater that exploded your mouth every so often when I bit into one of the tiny “floats”.  I’ve only ever found it that once, even though I excitedly pored over the menu of all Japanese and Korean restaurants I visited after that, looking for the same dish.  I think I am quite happy to eat only seaweed, and not fish!

I wonder why we treat our approach to the sea so differently to land?  On land, we have learned that it is not a good idea to upturn an entire forest, just to get at the birds and animals living in it.  We no longer wide scale hunt wild creatures for food, having learned that it is better to farm them (besides the point that there just aren’t enough wild animals left in the world to eat).  We know that it is better for our health to consume more fruit and vegetables, and limit our protein intake.

But when it comes to the sea, we continue to hunt the last vestiges of the large wild creatures of the sea, we continue to trawl the sea bottom, destroying what has taken years to grow, and all the ecosystems associated with it. And in proportion, largely ignore the plant life, its health benefits and fast growing, sustainable and portable properties, in favour of the fast-diminishing, protein-based creatures that inhabit it.

See the fish?

If I was a clever fishing company, I think that about now, I’d be thinking of what I could do to diversify, to enable my business to continue growing in the future.  You only need to visit an Asian food store or restaurant to see the potential of seaweed, and what delicious foods you can make with it…


In fact, from what I have read, there are moves afoot to develop the seaweed industry in New Zealand, particularly karengo, which is the New Zealand equivalent of nori.

Most New Zealand seaweed is edible, including the varieties you see pictured here.  I haven’t yet tried Neptune’s necklace (below), but the red seaweed above is absolutely delicious – it tastes like the sea vegetable version of mussels.  I rinsed it in clean water and ate it raw.  Yum!  The eldest boy told me I was a freak.  Hehe!

Neptune's necklaceA seaweed I have long been curious to try is sea lettuce.

ulva LactucaI grew up in Tauranga, where it is very abundant and becoming quite a pest.  When I was a girl, large blooms were commonly associated with sewage run-off, so I was never really tempted to eat it.  Nowadays, research indicates that the weather is blamed for its abundance, instead of pollution (although excess nutrients in the water do contribute to enhanced growth).  But imagine if instead of the bloom being seen as a nuisance, its advent was welcomed with annual excitement, and it was harvested with abandon to be made into tasty food!? Maybe even a seaweed festival coming out of it?  Instead of people groaning at the cost to ‘clean it up’, there would be people paying money to have a permit to harvest it!

Ulva lactuca

Seaweed is not only tasty, but it has excellent health benefits. In New Zealand especially, we should be eating more of it – seaweeds are rich in the minerals that are deficient in New Zealand soil.

I believe that with proper care and management of our oceans, we can continue to enjoy the bounteous wonders and flavours of the sea.  We just might have to cultivate our palates a little more, to make room for yet more delicious flavours and textures!

As you might have guessed, this post is also the introductory thought behind my latest design.  Watch out for the Ulva Lactuca shawl pattern tomorrow – my Christmas present to you. 🙂


I came across some very interesting sites about seaweed when I was researching for this article. Have a look at some of these links to find out more fascinating facts about, and recipes for seaweed:


The Kiwi way

The sea is close to the hearts of most (if not all) New Zealanders.  Walk in to any work space or home in New Zealand, and it’s almost certain that you’ll see a picture of a treasured beach holiday on a desk or wall.  I don’t think there isn’t a Kiwi alive who doesn’t have fond memories of days at the beach.

beach holiday

The great annual summer shutdown is about to occur, when most businesses shut for two weeks over Christmas and New Year.  Thousands of (if not a million!) Kiwis are preparing to leave their city homes and descend on the beaches all over the country, for the simple bach* life and two weeks of sun and sea.

*the bach is the traditional Kiwi beach holiday cottage – usually a rudimentary affair with very basic bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and living room, they are meant for sleeping in, and not much else – all other activity happens outside, where meals are cooked over the ‘barbie’ and eaten al fresco, and the day is spent “mucking around” on the beach, fishing, swimming, body surfing, digging holes and generally having fun.

The beach

This is a picture I took a few years back on one such summer holiday – the young boy is holding a handful of shellfish (pipi) he’d dug up from the sand.  They’re delicious, and especially so when cooked straight away over a fire on the beach, and seasoned with a dash of lemon juice and Tabasco sauce!  These ones were put back due to contamination concerns at the time.


I’d go so far as to say that the beach and the sea are a part of the Kiwi soul.  Start to talk about limiting rights to access the beach, or catch sizes, and you get extremely passionate responses.

At the beach

It’s a good thing too.  If we continue to care, then hopefully it means that we will be mindful of looking after one of New Zealand’s greatest natural treasures.

I for one, especially love pottering around rock pools.  The first time I went to Makara Beach after I moved to Wellington, I thought I had discovered marine paradise.

Here, the rock pools are sheltered enough from the ocean swell that myriad sea life exists.  Standing on the rocks, you gaze into the crystal clear water at this:Sea garden

Let’s now come closer and see more…Neptune's necklace

The above is Neptune’s necklace.Seaweed

I’d love to know what this one is called.  I haven’t been able to find out yet.
ulva Lactuca

Sea lettuce (above) is apparently delicious, and I must try some soon.  Under the sea

The unspoilt beauty makes my heart sing and brings a sense of peace and happiness.  Not to mention that knitting inspiration abounds!Rock pools

We spend hours crouched over the pools, spotting the amazing forms of sea life…Sea life

Can you see the fish in this picture?  There are two of them.See the fish?

Notice the pink paint-like spots on the rocks?  That’s a crust-forming coralline algae, known as pink paint! This particular seaweed actually releases chemicals that encourage pāua (abalone) larvae to settle and mature.

Sea snails

Snail and limpets crawl slowly over the rocks, grazing on algae.

Just a bit further out at the edges of the rocks, abalone (pāua) and crayfish hide. On the weekends, the sea is alive with divers, who especially love to come and harvest them and the butterfish that flit in the kelp.  I only hope they don’t take too much.  Some times you see evidence of less than legal behaviour…

Undersize pauaThis is an undersized pāua that unfortunately got taken before it was of legal size. The divers remove them from their shells on the beach and throw the shells back into the sea in order to more easily hide their greed.

I feel especially protective of what we have in New Zealand, especially after living overseas and going to the beach, full of expectation at finding something like the above, only to see… nothing.  Just rocks, and sea.  It was horrifying.

Ah yes, the sea is indeed full of bountiful treasures and wonderful experiences.  Let us treasure what we have here, and never take it for granted.


All rivers run to the sea

“Where does the water in the drains go to mum?” asked my youngest boy one day. It was raining, and he was watching the water run down the channels on the side of the road.  We were on our way to school when he came up with that question, so we had a brief conversation about the difference between stormwater and household waste water, and how the water that ran down the drains on the road went into the storm water system and straight into the streams and sea.

I showed him the stormwater catchpit at his school, which has a great plaque next to it:

Stormwater sump

It also gave me an opportunity to teach him how it important it was that rubbish and chemical pollution didn’t get washed into those drains, because it all ended up in the sea, polluting it and killing and harming aquatic life.

Remembering this conversation prompted me to look at exploring another way to give back to the sea:  by ensuring that our water is as clean as possible before it gets to the sea.  It’s true that not every river runs to the sea, but the vast majority of them do.

Here are just a few of the simple things that can be done to sustain the sea.  I thought I’d share them here because I didn’t know about some of these until recently, and others I thought didn’t make much difference until I tried, and then saw how much it was needed.

  • Don’t wash detergents (eg car or driveway washing) or pour chemicals down stormwater inlets. The detergents and/or chemicals will wash down the drain and straight into the streams and sea, where they will kill both freshwater and marine life.  Instead, take your car to a car wash where the water can go to a treatment plant, and take unwanted chemicals to safe disposal centres.
  • Pick up that discarded can, plastic bag or plastic bottle sitting in the gutter (quite problematic on rubbish collection days around here), and put it in the rubbish.  It will stop it from being washed into the stormwater system and onwards to the sea.  I am so thankful that we don’t have the situation here like in Hong Kong for example, where swimming in the sea meant the unavoidable experience of plastic bags brushing against your legs like a swarm of jellyfish.
  • Engage in a beach cleaning day.  I am always surprised at how many bags of rubbish get picked up, even from beaches that look clean.  The less junk in the sea, the less potential to harm marine life and leach pollution.
  • Plant more plants and have less non-porous surfaces (eg. concrete) around the home.  This acts as a natural ‘sink’ to prevent excess pollutants entering the storm water system during heavy rain.

Ultimately, everything we do ends up affecting the health of the sea (read on below to see why I say this).  If we can help to nurture the sea from the land, that would be something wouldn’t it?

Here are a couple of links to more information:

Natural Resources Defence Council – Water

Preventing Water Pollution from your home

As I delved into this topic, I also learned of a new thing I hadn’t been aware of until this week:  Ocean acidification.  Why is it important?  I urge you to watch this short video. To put it lightly, the message is critical.  I feel very concerned that I hadn’t known about this before.  Why aren’t there more news articles about this?

Then questions started to form in my head.  How can the ocean become acidic? Isn’t it alkaline given it’s salty?  And how does the addition of carbon dioxide to sea water make acid?  Fortunately, I found all the answers: here and here and here are a few links to helpful information if you want to read them (just google ‘ocean acidification’ and you’ll find more).

The essential points are that the ocean absorbs a huge amount of the carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere (between 25 – 50% depending on the sources you read).  We used to think this was a good thing, until scientists recently realised that when carbon dioxide dissolves into sea water, it forms carbonic acid, locking up calcium that is needed by marine life to form their shells.  This chemical reaction also lowers the pH balance of the sea, which is now 30% less alkaline than it should be (hence, acidification).  The more acidic sea water is already starting to dissolve the shells of sea creatures and prevent their effective reproduction as the lower pH damages and kills the young.  If we think of all the marine life that has a shell – from coral, to the tiniest plankton and krill (that form the essential food base of so many fish and sea mammals), to the crabs, oysters and shellfish that we all like to eat, the implications to the food chain and balance of life in the ocean are immense. Predictions are that in 40 years, the sea could have become so acidic that coral reefs will cease to exist and mass extinctions will occur.

Don’t we have a solution? I wondered.  Indeed, there is – use less fossil fuels, as we all know.  I also read some interesting research that indicates that fish play an important part in the re-calcification of the sea.  Apparently, all bony fish excrete calcium carbonate pellets as a by-product of “drinking” sea water.  When excreted, these calcium carbonate pellets dissolve, putting calcium back in the sea.  This is yet another reason why we should be leaving more fish in the sea.

Indeed, all “rivers” run to the sea, and I am ever more convinced, as I delve into how we can sustain the sea, that it is critical to do more than we ever have thought necessary to do.

Watch out for the Tidal hat tomorrow.

Tidal hat


Sustain the Sea: The Orange Roughy Mitts

Welcome to the first design from my new series collection, Sustain the Sea!!

Orange Roughy Mitts

The Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves.

This pattern is a mid-length fingerless glove.  I have selected a ‘scale’ pattern to highlight its fishy tribute, with the seed stitch thumb further hinting at marine origins.  The stretchy bind and ribbing represents fins.  The colour is that of the orange roughy fish.

Full detail

These gloves are knitted to a tight gauge to prevent stretching during wear.  They fit the arm like a second skin, and will keep you nice and snug on those crisp autumn and winter mornings.

Sizing:  One size.  Fits the average woman.  Approx 25cm/10″ long and 18cm/7″ around before wear.  Worn with between 0 – 2″ negative ease.

You need:  70g of high twist wool sock yarn.  For this sample, I have used Fibre Alive Merino Mania in a one-off colourway, wonderfully named “Orange Roughy”. An available alternative in the exact same colour and style of yarn is Knitsch 100% New Zealand merino sock yarn in Charlemange.

Other suitable alternatives available overseas include in the US, Koigu KPPM, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, or in the UK, high-twist BFL sock yarn or the merino/nylon/ stellina sparkle 4 ply such as the ones brought in to New Zealand by Doe Arnot). Any yarns with the same sock weight, with high wool content and in high twist spin will be suitable to get the same effect as you see above.  Wool is important for its stretch, and the high twist gives the “scales” definition.

Needles:  2.25mm (US1) DPNs

Gauge:  10 sts x 14 rows to 2.5cm / 1″ in scale stitch pattern

Skill level:  Familiarity with knitting in the round and ability to read charts would be useful.

Download here: Free pattern: Orange Roughy Fingerless Gloves or from Ravelry.  In return, I ask that you ‘pay me’ by buying “good choice” fish when you next decide to have a fish dinner. 🙂

Orange Roughy Mitts

My thanks to the oldest boy for his fantastic photography at Makara Beach.

About the orange roughy

I have chosen to tribute the orange roughy to begin this series.  This fish heads the “do not eat” and “worst choice” list on all “Best Fish Guide” lists that are currently produced by any marine conservation organisation.  In fact, it is arguable that this fish should be on the menu at all as there is no truly sustainable way of catching this fish.

The orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) is a bright red, deep sea fish.  Its colour fades to a light, pinkish orange after death.  It is part of the slimehead family, and also known in other countries as deepsea perch, sea perch, red roughy, hoplostete orange, granatbarsch, pesce arancio, beryx de nouvelle-zelande, or rosy soldierfish (Wikipedia).

New Zealand and Australian orange roughy stocks were discovered in the 1970’s.  Since then, although quotas have been reduced in recent years, and several fishery areas closed due to over-fishing, most populations of orange roughy stocks still open to fishing are now only one-fifth of their original unfished size in the 1970’s. In fact, orange roughy in Australia is listed as “Conservation Dependent” and protected under national environmental law. (Australian Marine Conservation Society)

The orange roughy is extremely long-lived – as far as we know, it can live up to 150 years.  The fish are caught around sea mounts using bottom-trawling as they congregate to spawn or feed.  Most caught fish are around 30 – 40 cm long (their size at approx. 20 – 30 years of age) although they can grow to twice this size.  Very little is known about orange roughy reproductive habits.  It is likely that individual orange roughy do not spawn every year once they reach maturity at 20+ years, and when they do, the fish release less eggs than other species.

In addition to the obvious consequences of catching a slow growing, low-fertility fish as it is in the process of reproducing, bottom trawling destroys sea floor species assemblages and fragile seamount habitats, where the fish are found.  It effectively bulldozes the sea floor demolishing black corals, lace corals, coral trees, colourful sponge fields and long-lived bryozoans, some aged at over 500 years old (Forest & Bird). Deep water sharks and other non-target fish species are also caught.  Endangered seabird and sea lion by catch has also been reported.   Little is known about deep sea environments.  What harm are we causing besides the obvious destruction?  What are we doing to the deep sea eco-system by removing this important part of the food chain?

Due to its long life, the orange roughy contains high levels of mercury in its flesh.  It is also very low in omega-3 fatty-acids, making this fish a much less nutritionally suitable fish for human consumption than other species.

Current statistic indicate that orange roughy is mostly exported to the USA (69%) and Australia (18%), with some to the UK, Europe and China. Orange roughy is also sold in New Zealand.

Although quotas exist for this fish, it is admitted that it is unknown whether the levels permitted by the quotas are sustainable.  Statistics indicate that once exploited, orange roughy populations have not recovered.

After reading the facts, I believe that fishing for orange roughy is undoubtedly not sustainable in any form.

Please do not eat orange roughy.


Forest & Bird Best fish guide

Current Fisheries information

NZ Fisheries Site – the Orange Roughy

Wikipedia – the Orange Roughy

Mar-Eco – the Orange Roughy

Greenpeace – the Orange Roughy

Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide

Blue Ocean Institute – Species Score Card