Te Awaatu Channel (The Gut) marine reserve was initially proposed by the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen. It was established in 1993, and along with the Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) marine reserve, became the first marine reserve in Fiordland.
Te Awaatu or Te Awa-O-Tu translates as ‘the channel of Tu’. In Maori legend the mythical ancestor Tu-Te-Raki-whanoa carved out the fiords and lakes with his giant digging stick or ko, with one foot on Secretary Island (Ka-Tu-Waewae-O-Tu) at the entrance to Doubtful Sound and the other foot on Resolution Island (Mauikatau) at the entrance to Dusky Sound.
At 93 hectares, this is the smallest marine reserve in Fiordland. It is sandwiched between Bauza and Secretary Islands and has a high tidal flow. The reserve is much shallower than the surrounding deep-water basin habitats, which are the deepest in Fiordland, reaching depths of about 420 metres. There are significant rock wall and deep reef habitats, and the reserve is known for its sea pens and other suspension feeders, including the red and black corals, zooanthids and lampshells. Monitoring has shown more and larger rock lobsters exist in the reserve than outside it.
A five year study into the effects of divers on red coral in the marine reserve found no major changes to the coral populations there. Continued good diver practice and care will ensure that this does not change in the future.