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Sea Week opportunity to celebrate marine diversity

15 March 2003 Media Statement

Sea Week opportunity to celebrate marine diversity

The annual celebration of Sea Week this week has been an opportunity to celebrate New Zealand’s extraordinary marine life, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

“New Zealand lies at the centre of the ‘water hemisphere’. Almost one-third of all our indigenous species that we know of live in our seas, and there are many more that we don’t know of. On average seven new marine species are being identified each fortnight,” Mr Carter said.

“Our seas are of enormous conservation value, and yet in many ways we treat them badly. We are losing or are close to losing thousands of species from fish to marine plants to dolphins.

“Less than 0.1% of New Zealand’s coastal areas are protected for future generations in stark contrast to efforts that have now saved almost a third of New Zealand’s land from depredation,” Mr Carter said.

“Communities all over the country are starting to speak up for marine protection. The marine reserves we do have are proving tourist drawcards, recreational havens, and nurseries for commercial fish stocks.

“I hope we will have decisions on four marine reserves by the end of the year. 2003 is an exciting year for marine conservation. This year we will see action on the oceans policy, aquaculture reforms, the Marine Reserves Bill, a National Plan of Action on sea birds, a marine protected areas stategy, and a range of initiatives on individual marine reserve applications,” Mr Carter said.

“There are a variety of ways of protecting marine environments and I urge anyone who loves the sea to start exploring these options in their local community. The Department of Conservation will provide as much advice and scientific data as it can.”

Mr Carter was speaking at a Sea Week celebration at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve in Northland where he and other divers explored the protected marine ecosystem.

ENDS

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