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NZ challenged to follow Aussies on Marine reserves

The Forest and Bird Protection Society today challenged all political parties to follow the lead of the Australian Government and protect significant areas of the New Zealand exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Society spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said the Australian government had already protected significant seamount areas off Tasmania and has just declared a marine park around Macquarie Island, south of New Zealand, covering 16 million hectares.

"The Macquarie marine park extends from the coast out to 200 nautical miles offshore and contains 5.8 million hectares where fishing and mineral activity are prohibited. This non-fishing area is eight times the size of all of New Zealand's current no-take marine reserves and nearly five times the area of Fiordland National Park."

Mr Weeber said the Australians were developing a strategy for marine reserves and have also proposed a large marine park in the Great Australian Bight. The area will contain over 2 million hectares where fishing will not be permitted to protect sea floor species like sponges and corals.

"These proposals represent a significant commitment to offshore marine conservation which is currently absent in New Zealand."

"Greater action is needed in New Zealand to protect a range of marine ecosystems out to the edge of the EEZ."

Mr Weeber said the protection of seamounts or underwater hills at depths down to 1200 metres from orange roughy and oreo trawling was long overdue.

"This trawling removes corals and sponges from these underwater features and NIWA (the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere) has aged some of these corals at up to 500 years old."

Mr Weeber said the Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, has been suggesting the protection of a small number of seamounts but has never delivered.

"New Zealand needs to follow the positive lead taken by Australia and protect a significant part of the New Zealand EEZ."

Mr Weeber said internationally marine scientists are calling for 20 percent of the world's oceans to be protected as permanent biological reserves.

"New Zealand has less than 4 percent of its territorial sea in marine reserves compared to over 36 percent of the land set aside in reserves."

"Forest and Bird is calling on all political parties to support measures to protect a significant part of the marine environment."

ends

For further information contact Barry Weeber (04)385-7374.

Note:

1. Further information on the Australian marine reserves and parks can be found at www.environment.gov.au/marine

2. Attached are maps of: the Macquarie marine park (16.2 million ha) including the no-take marine reserve or highly protected zone (5.8 million ha); Tasmanian Seamounts Marine Reserve (37,000 ha); Great Australian Bight Marine Park, including the Benthic Protection Zone (20 nautical miles wide and 200 nautical miles long).

3. For comparison the Kermadecs Marine Reserve covers 748,000 ha but does not extend beyond 12 nautical miles offshore and the Fiordland National Park covers 1,251,924 ha. The seamount reserve is larger than Egmont National Park (33,543 ha) and Paparoa National Park (30,560 ha).

4. New Zealand's 16 marine reserves currently cover only 763,000 ha, 98 percent of which is in the Kermadecs Marine Reserve.


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