Research costing $740,000 has begun to piece together the story of Marlborough's rare king shags.
Marine Farming Association president Jonathan Large was part of a team that has just completed a survey in the Marlborough Sounds of the only population of king shags in the world.
"As marine farming is in the area, we want to understand what our impacts are on this species.
"They're at low numbers and the threats seem to be human activity, but we believe that's human activity around the colony sites," Mr Large said.
The five-day survey found about 800 king shags feeding and nesting, suggesting numbers of the endangered bird are stable.
The shags were seen at 12 colonies and a day roosting site was also spotted.
"The crux of it is there hasn't been enough work done on the king shag species, which is quite surprising given they're a special bird.
"They're an interesting bird - they're very shy," he said.
The Ministry for Primary Industries funded the survey that finished on Tuesday.
In total, the team planned to spend $740,000 on further research over the next three years to "find out what make this bird tick and why they want to be in the Marlborough Sounds", Mr Large said.