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Unprotected Species Threatened with Extinction

[Note: Species extinction is even more important than the election date.]

Species that are found no-where else in the world but Spirits and Tom Bowling Bays from Cape Reinga to North Cape are likely to be lost irretrievably unless they are fully protected now, says Cath Wallace for the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

In response to the Fisheries Minister, John Luxton’s announcement of a no-fishing strip largely between 50 and 70 metres depth off the Bays, Cath Wallace warned that the Minister’s minimalist approach to protection is likely to lead to significant further losses of species and unique marine commu
nities because of trawling and scallop dredging.

"The Minister’s response is tragically inadequate. He is sacrificing rare, very rare, and unique species. Forty-five are found nowhere else. Losses will be irretrievable. He appears to have set the 50 m depth inshore boundary under pressure from the scallop dredgers and trawlers. There are many s
pecies that will be lost from the shore side of 50 metres.

"From an ecological point of view it is essential to protect species in shoreward of the 50 m depth contour because different species and communities live in shallow water compared to those found beyond 50m. The fifty metre depth limit has been picked because most scallop dredges operate in shall
ower waters. The Minister has also only closed one of the three trawl tracks that are probably doing a lot of damage – even his own report concedes this."

Ms Wallace condemned the fishing companies who pressured the Minister not to give greater protection to this area. "What we have here are companies and the SeaFood Industry Council that could be pushing for proper protection – but they aren’t doing it and instead fishers are resisting these essen
tial protection regulations. There is no way that New Zealanders should allow these companies to have greater powers to determine fishing – yet this is exactly what they and the Minister are planning for the near future under plans for industry management of fisheries."

"In 1996 scientists warned that continued dredging would destroy the unparalleled communities of marine animals in the area. By 1997 scientists were even more insistent that extinctions would occur if there was not proper protection. They stressed the occurrence of rare species in the 30-60 metre
depth contours. Because of the Minister’s refusal to act in those years when the government was first warned, we have already lost much of the "Sponge Garden" and other communities. Scallop dredgers and trawlers have ploughed up, smashed or suffocated unique animals and plants in the last 3 years.

"This is a tragedy of extinction and irreversible community loss being played before us. Under industry pressure the Minister is doing as little as possible about the most important biological area in New Zealand. No New Zealander should stand by and allow these areas to be trawled and dredged. I
t is a crime against the future and a crime against nature.

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