Our deep oceans need protection
Oceans cover two thirds of the planet and have an incalculable value to humanity. They supply us with food, produce half the oxygen we breathe, absorb around 30% of the carbon dioxide we produce and around 93% of the extra heat from human induced changes to the atmosphere.
Overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and rapid changes in ocean temperature and acidity are running down the health of our oceans. New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ (the area between 12 and 200 nautical miles offshore) is the fourth largest in the world. How we look after it matters.
Virtually all of New Zealand’s EEZ is open for exploitation by fishing companies, oil and gas drillers, seabed miners and others. The EEZ and Extended Continental Shelf Act 2012 allows for consents to be granted for use and development. Yet we have no law that allows for areas of deep ocean to be set aside and permanently protected for their biodiversity and ecological values, to promote ecosystem resilience and help replenish fish stocks. (Some areas of the seafloor have been set aside from destructive bottom trawling but the water above them can continue to be fished).
The National Government’s proposals for new marine protected areas legislation leave 94% of New Zealand’s marine environment open for exploitation with no ability to create deep sea marine reserves and marine protected areas in the EEZ, except by special legislation. The Government is tinkering with the existing Marine Reserves Act by continuing to restrict marine reserves to the territorial sea (up to 12 nautical miles offshore).
Its tinkering will weaken the existing law by allowing oil and gas drillers and seabed miners to veto any new marine reserves in the territorial sea if they overlap a permit area. The companies don’t have this right under the current Marine Reserves Act 1971.
The Government’s proposals also muddle marine protection and fisheries management by proposing to allow for the creation of new recreational fishing "parks" in the new law.
Recreational fishing areas are not effective in protecting marine life as Northland’s Mimiwhangata Marine Park shows. Commercial fishing is prohibited in Mimiwhangta but recreational fishing is allowed. Forest and Bird describes how large snapper which were once abundant, are now rare there. With less snapper predation, kina populations have increased creating kina barrens where there were once kelp forests. Packhorse crayfish have disappeared.
Commercial fishing can already be banned or restricted under the Fisheries Act and that act should be amended to provide for recreational fishing areas, rather than weakening any new marine protection law.
New Zealand must do its share to protect and improve the health of the ocean around New Zealand, especially as scientists estimate that 80% of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity and around 10 % of the world’s marine biodiversity is found in these seas.
We need much more ambitious reform than National is proposing.
The Ministry for the Environment (MFE) has organised a round of public meetings on the changes. Click here for details of the public meetings.
Read Eugenie Sage’s blog on how the proposals short-change our oceans.
Have your say
The Green Party has prepared an online submission form to help you make you have your say. Click here to make a submission via our form.
MFE’s submission form is here https://submissions.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/marine-protected-areas-act/make-a-submission
Submissions close on Friday 11 March at 5.00pm.