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Marine Conservation in New Zealand
Should we protect something we value?
Wairua o te Tangaroa
Wairua o te Tangata
Te wairua kautou
The spirit of the ocean
The spirit of the people
The spirit of all
By Olive Heihei, year 7 at Taipa Area School (EMR 2003)
Mātaitai Reserves are established under the Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations 1998. Mātaitai reserves are discrete areas of traditional importance to Māori where Tangata whenua are authorised to manage and control the non-commercial harvest of seafood.
Taiapure are established under the Māori Fisheries Act 1989. Taiapure are local fishery areas, in estuarine or littoral coastal waters. They are of special importance to iwi or hapu as a source of seafood or are of spiritual and cultural significance. They are established to give Māori a greater say in the management of these taiapure areas.
The Fisheries Act 1996 is administered by the Ministry of Fisheries and is responsible for the sustainable management of New Zealand ’s fisheries. The Ministry of Fisheries covers management such as the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Quota Management System (QMS). The QMS as applied in New Zealand is recognised worldwide as a very good fisheries management tool. Its main objective though, is to extract the maximum possible economic value from the fish stocks; based on their removal from the sea.
Marine Parks are established under the Fisheries Regulations 1986. Under these regulations, special rules can be made. For example, Mimiwhangata (established 1984) is closed to all forms of commercial fishing. Paua and rock oyster are fully protected. At Tawharanui (established 1981) Marine Park , the rules were no fishing permitted at all. The Sugar Loaf Islands has no commercial fishing.
Where are they?
New Zealand currently has 32 established marine reserves covering a tiny 0.19% of the territorial sea surrounding our three main islands. This percentage is increased to 7.5% when the huge Kermadec and Auckland Islands marine reserves are included, yet these two reserves are far offshore and rarely visited by people. More than half of these reserves were established within in the last 10 years. Marine reserves exist in remote and uninhabited areas such as the huge 7480 km2 reserve surrounding the Kermadec Islands , 700km from any permanent habitation.
While densely populated places such as the Pollen Islands marine reserve in the middle of the metropolis of Auckland also enjoy the protection of a marine reserve (Ballantine, 1999). As shown on the map, marine reserves are not spread evenly across the coastline.
Taking into account our marine environment is full of habitat diversity, such as mangrove tidal flats, bold rocky coasts, sea grass beds and many more which vary across the length of our EEZ, do you think it is important to protect a representative of each habitat type in each region? You may also notice on the map that marine reserves are concentrated around the coastline, and very few include the deep sea. Is this representative protection of our marine environment?
What are they?
Marine reserves provide a safe place for marine life to live and breed, secure from human predation. Marine reserves must be ‘no-take’. That means that everything is protected (the animals and the homes they occupy, including those not yet discovered) for anyone and everyone to study, observe and ‘fish watch’. Marine reserves protect the unique biodiversity of the sea. All reasonably preventable human impacts are prohibited. No fishing is permitted or any removal of material. This means no dredging, dumping, construction or any other disturbance. People are encouraged to view the results, thereby learning values of natural biodiversity. Marine reserves are an ecosystem management approach and allow the recovery of the biological structure of ecosystems (Palumbi, 2002). They are places where you can swim, snorkel, dive or look at marine life through a glass bottom boat! The only thing you should take home is your rubbish and the only thing you should leave are your footprints.
What do they do?
More effective management of our oceans is critical, as many fisheries continue to decline or collapse. While marine protected areas (M.P.A’s) like Mimiwhangata Marine Park and Marine Sanctuaries have been designated to enhance conservation, they often allow extractive activities, where as "no-take" marine reserves do not. Fully protected marine reserves are viewed by many as a key tool to help reverse widespread over fishing and habitat disturbance. Yet as there are gaps of knowledge about how these reserves work, and because they are perceived to be taking something else away from dwindling fisheries, they are often vigorously resisted.
Marine reserves are additional to detailed marine planning and management (QMS, coastal plans, catchment management plans etc.), which will continue to operate and develop outside marine reserves.
Marine reserves provide essential support to management systems, by providing insurance and buffers against management mistakes (Ballantine, 1999). We need to take out the insurance that marine reserves provide, as our existing knowledge about marine biodiversity and the natural processes in the sea is limited. Major discoveries continue, proving there is still much to learn. Meanwhile, our technological power continues to increase, so each year there are fewer ‘natural’ refuges, which previously provided some buffers for our actions. Human numbers also increase, so the intensity of exploitation increases. Marine reserves should be arranged to insure against management mistakes, provide natural refuges, mitigate the increasing pressures and ensure that biodiversity diversity and processes are protected (Ballantine, 1999). The major changes in the sea due to humans, especially when widespread or long term, are very hard to predict and generally impossible to demonstrate, unless some areas have been kept free of the disturbances. To study the effect of dredging in the Whangarei Harbour , you must have a natural area to compare it with. In a scientific sense, marine reserves act as ‘controls’ (all experiments must have controls). Marine reserves do not protect the oceans from all human influences such as sedimentation and pollution, but they do provide a focus for education and conservation of marine species for future generations. Marine reserves help us to understand and care for the ocean. How can you protect it, if you haven’t seen it? Marine reserves are a unique marine management tool, promoting the recovery of entire ecosystems by a combination of effects (PISCO, 2002).
· Did you know?
Larvae may be dispersed out of reserves (i.e. through currents) and seed or boost populations in surrounding waters.
· Allow organisms to survive longer and grow larger
· Protect ecosystem structure and function
· Keep biodiversity intact at all levels
· Protect food webs (every animal has an important role to play in its environment).
· Safeguard ecological processes, i.e. reproduction in paua (they need to be close for successful breeding
· Maintain trophic structure (top and bottom of the food chain
· Protect natural population structure (young and old)
· Retain keystone species (these have important functional roles e.g. snapper and crayfish)
· Sustain species presence and abundance
· Prevent loss of vulnerable species (like the spotted black grouper)
· Maintain physical structure of habitat (habitat not destroyed by trawling)
· Allow habitat recovery and better provide for animals and plants that rely on them
· Retain natural behaviours and interactions
· Maintain high quality feeding area
· Provide for plentiful prey, which can support more predators
· Marine reserves can act as a kohanga or nursery, where young are allowed to regenerate.
· Marine reserves can help to protect the marine gene pool and maintain genetic variation within a species, by protecting populations of species.
(Adapted from Sobel 1996).
Marine reserves provide many benefits to different sectors of society. These areas include science, education, conservation, health, recreation, tourism, planning, management, fisheries and ecosystem support (Ballantine, 1999). The main focus of marine reserves should be on the conservation benefits; however there is reason to believe that there will be benefits to fisheries (Roberts and Hawkins, 2000). Higher densities and abundance of fish at spawning aggregations will result in a denser mix up of fish and increase the chances of fertilization. These effects interact to produce a natural ‘enhancement project’ or ‘stud farm’ (Ballantine, 1999). If fish are relieved of harvesting pressure and become numerous in the reserve, this may be a benefit to fisheries through extra larval supply or adult spillover. Marine reserves sustain the balance of both young and old fish, which are important for genes which get passed on to the next generation. Fish survive longer and grow bigger in a reserve. The larger fish produce more eggs, while older fish produce larger eggs with better survival rate. Due to the nature of reproduction in the marine environment (millions of eggs drift in the currents), these eggs will drift elsewhere, and may be of benefit to fisheries.
· Did you know?
Cable zones are found in 1% of our territorial waters. Cable zones are like roads or railways on land and although they may prevent or control fishing, they are not marine reserves!
· Did you know?
A study by Shears and Babcock (2002) found snapper and crayfish to be the dominant predator on large kina. The scientists found that kina within the marine reserve at Leigh, had a 7% higher chance of been preyed upon compared to the kina within the adjacent unprotected waters. The method they used to conduct this experiment included tethering (just like tethering a goat) to see if the kina get eaten or not!
At the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve (est. 1981) the recovery of snapper has become evident within the reserve since the reserve became a full no take marine reserve in 1998 (previous to this, some recreational fishing was allowed). After 4 years of total closure the Poor Knights legal size snapper were found 16 times higher inside the reserve compared to outside (Babcock, 2002).
Seasonal patterns of migration (which were previously unknown in this well studied fish) have also become evident. The marine reserve is conserving the valuable gene pool of this important recreational and economic species.
· Did you know?
Studies at Leigh marine reserve show that female crayfish show a strong preference towards mating with large males and if the female can’t find a large enough male, she gets sick!
· Did you know?
Kina in the marine reserve are capable of sitting in spot, by grinding its way into the rock with its teeth. Once they have their spot, they catch pieces of kelp to feed on as it drifts past.
How to create a marine reserve
Because of the high levels of endemism of New Zealand 's waters, it is our national responsibility to conserve our biodiversity without relying on neighbouring countries. We need to be self reliant by preserving our important seas and all they contain. The Marine Reserves Act, 1971 allows any group to propose a marine reserve within territorial waters and is an effective way for communities to ensure protection of their local marine environment for the future. Examples of successful community led marine reserve proposals are the Whangarei Harbour marine reserve (est. 2006) proposed by students of Kamo High School and the Te Tapuewae O Rongokako marine reserve (est. 1999) was a joint proposal between local hapu Ngati Konohi and Department of Conservation. It is important to note that this legislation currently does not allow protection of deep sea environments outside the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limits. The purpose of the new Bill 2002 (currently before parliament) is to conserve indigenous marine biodiversity on New Zealand ’s foreshore, internal waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles) for current and future generations. The new Bill seeks to streamline the legal processes for establishing marine reserves and is focused on establishing a representative network of marine reserves and will better accommodate for the involvement of tangata whenua.
The key criteria for establishing a marine reserve under the Marine Reserves Act 1971 is - Reserves may be established in areas that contain underwater scenery, natural features, or marine life of such distinctive quality, or so typical, or beautiful, or unique, that their continued preservation is in the national interest. Under the Marine Reserves Act (1971), the Department of Conservation is responsible for looking after marine reserves and issuing permits for scientific study though communities are also welcome to look after these reserves (DoC, 2000).
Marine Reserve Rules
You are welcome to swim, snorkel, dive or picnic in the marine reserve area.
No fish feeding (this disturbs their natural behaviour and is an offence)
No fishing of any kind
No taking or disturbing of any marine life, including rocks, shells, shellfish, seaweed from the reserve.
No building of any structures
No fires are allowed
No domestic animals are allowed
Boating is allowed, so long as boats or jet skis to not exceed five knots within 200m of the shore or a dive flag, or within 30m of a boat or person in the water
Marine Reserves are established by:
Forming a core group that is committed to the result.
Developing a proposal, with input from interested parties and tangata moana/whenua.
Initial consultation paves the way for a proposal; a proposal paves the way and gathers evidence and information to support the final application.
An application is prepared.
Formal application is made to the Minister of Conservation.
Public notification of application.
Applicant may respond to objections received.
Report, including objections and applicants responses sent to the Minister.
Minister considers report.
Concurrence sought from Minister of Fisheries and Transport (Note: this will no longer be a requirement in the new Bill (2002).
Minister of Conservation makes a decision.
Although Marine Reserves legislation was introduced in 1971 only 2 marine reserves had been established by 1990. In the last 18 years 31 marine reserves have been established, but this was all done without any official policy from central government to ensure comprehensive and representative conservation of all habitat types. In 2006 the government announced the national biodiversity strategy, including a target of protecting 10% of New Zealand 's marine environment by 2010 through a network of representative marine protected areas.
To meet this target the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) policy was formed in 2006, with a classification and implementation guide document published in February 2008. This document was slow in coming and took years of public consultation with conservation groups, fisheries groups, tangata whenua and other interested parties. The methods and processes designed to meet the policy's principal objective have now become evident in the February 2008 document. Each MPA must meet a certain standard of biodiversity protection. Marine reserves created under the Marine Reserves Act afford the highest level of protection, yet prohibitions through the Fisheries Act, Resource Management Act, Biosecurity Act, Maritime Transport Act, Crown Minerals Act, marine mammal sanctuaries and cable protection zones can all be used to form MPA's.
Firstly, DOC and MFish must classify and zone marine environments based on habitat type and bioregion. Then, according to this classification one to two representative portions of each habitat class will be protected. Planning for these areas will be through 14 regional marine protection planning forums (MPPF's) made up of a maximum of 14 community members representing all relevant sectors with interests in the marine environment. These groups must consult with the wider public and present a recommendation report to the ministers of conservation and fisheries who will then decide on the reports proposals.
As the MPA planning process has only just begun, this is a critical time for us all to become involved in the future of our marine biodiversity. Items to keep informed on and contribute towards throughout the process are as follows.
Marine habitat mapping and preparatory information. This classification of the marine environment is yet to be compiled by DOC and the Ministry of Fisheries. Decisions on MPA boundaries will be based on this zoning. Currently, large gaps exist in our knowledge of the marine environments and the biodiversity they contain. You may have something to add about your local area.
Marine Protection Planning Forums and consultation. As of July 2008 no MPPF's have been formed. Positions in these forums will be advertised, as will the ensuing consultation process. This is the main forum for public consultation, and key dates will be advertised in your region.
The hardest part of any project is to begin………
Peter Blake's last log entry on board the “Seamaster”, 4 December 2001.
“We want to restart people caring for the environment, and at the same time we want to do this through adventure, through participation, through education and through enjoyment. To win, you have to believe you can do it. You have to be passionate about it. You have to really want the result… even if this means years of work. The hardest part of any big project is to begin. We have begun- we are underway- we have a passion. We want to make a difference. We hope that you and as many of your friends will join us”
Links and References
WWF New Zealand Maui Dolphin Home http://www.wwf.org.nz/dolphin/
State of Observed Species (SOS), 2008 http://species.asu.edu/pdf/sos.pdf
Ministry for the Environment, State of the Environment report; 2007 found at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/ser/enz07-dec07/index.html
MacDiarmid, A. (compiler), 2007: The Treasures of the Sea: A summary of biodiversity in New Zealand’s ecoregion, prepared for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature – New Zealand . Wellington : World Wildlife Fund for Nature.
Mason, R.S.; Ritchie, L.D. (1979). Aspects of the ecology of the Whangarei Harbour . Report to Northland Harbour Board and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Whangarei, 88 p.
Ballantine, W, J. (1999) Marine Reserves in New Zealand . The Development of the Concept and the principles. Environment Conservation Council. Victoria, Australia
Department of Conservation (DoC) and Ministry for the Environment (MfE) (2000) The New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy: Our chance to turn the tide Wellington, New Zealand
Forest & Bird and ECO, (2001), Sea Sense, Environmental management for fisheries. Discussion Paper.
National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), (2001) Scientific consensus statement on marine reserves and protected areas University of California, Santa Barbara
Palumbi (2002) Marine Reserves- a tool for ecosystem management and conservation
Pew Oceans Commission. Arlington, Virginia .
Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) (2002).The Science of Marine Reserves. Oregon State University , University of California , Santa Barbara
Roberts, C and Hawkins, J. (2000). Fully-protected marine reserves: a guide. WWF Endangered Seas Campaign
Sobel, J. (1996) Marine reserves: necessary tools for biodiversity conservation?. Based on global experience of international experts.