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Oceans Pillage Conference Planned

Environmentalists bearing ninety-three skeletons and seven live fish will greet Jenny Shipley and other Oceans conference goers when they arrive for the conference Oceans Opportunities - The Next Great Economic Frontier at Te Papa in Wellington on Tuesday.

Jenny Shipley is to launch the conference, which the environmentalists say focuses on mining of oil, gas, other minerals and fish but says little about our responsibilities to the environment. The protest will take place at 8-9am on Tuesday 12th October, at the Te Papa entrance. It is organised by ECO, Forest and Bird as part of the the Vote for the Environment campaign.

"Since the fisheries Quota Management System was introduced many fish stocks have declined dramatically. This is especially true of the long lived, slow growing species such as orange roughy and oreos. Two orange roughy populations have been fished down to just 7% of their original size," said Barry Weeber of Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Cath Wallace, marine co-ordinator of the Environment and Conservation Organisations, ECO, said "National's Fisheries Minister John Luxton has fiddled while hundreds of species risk extinction in Spirits Bay and Tom Bowling Bay. Unique underwater life in this area is at risk of imminent extinction according to scientific reports. Minister Luxton has finally agreed to protect a 20 metre depth contour strip - the rest, where the dredgers and trawlers are allowed to continue to operate, remains at risk. Protecting a strip of depth contour is like just protecting a narrow altitude band on a mountain: it does not protect the ecosystem.

"All over the New Zealand territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), there are marine communities at risk and the government has done virtually nothing to give them protection or to implement the environmental provisions of the Fisheries Act. Underwater mountains and hills, known as seamounts are also being damaged and unique marine gardens and forests are being destroyed.

"Fishers trawling for slow growing and long lived species wreck the marine environment and mine the fish stocks. If the value of the money grows faster than the value of the fish in the sea, then they grab the money and run.

"The government's solution to all this is to ignore these fundamental drivers of environmental damage and to hand over control of fisheries management to the very quota owners who stand to gain from such mining," said Cath Wallace.

"None of the environmental organisations who regularly work on marine issues has been invited to speak. This speaks volumes about the focus of the conference, said Mr Weeber. "In most respects this conference is a conference for exploiters of the marine environment, not for those who want management to ensure that any harvesting is ecologically sustainable.

Environmental groups organising the protest had joined together under as the Vote for the Environment campaign, which aims to bring environmental issues to the forefront in the upcoming election. Mr Weeber said, "what we and many other voters want is marine management in public control focused on the sea as an ecosystem with public input and control of inputs. We do not want something named integrated management if this is really a cover for handing control to fish and mineral miners."


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