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Marine protection for NZ's subantarctic islands

Marine protection for NZ's subantarctic islands

A process to protect the marine environment around New Zealand's subantarctic islands was announced today by the Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Chris Carter.

The Ministers launched the Subantarctic Marine Protection Project at the international meeting of parties of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) held today in Christchurch.

"New Zealand's subantarctic island groups are a vital part of Southern Ocean ecosystems," Mr Carter said.

"They provide important habitat for many endangered species that are found nowhere else in the world, and these deserve the highest level of protection that we can provide."

At issue are the Bounty, Antipodes and Campbell/Motu Ihupuku island groups. A marine mammal sanctuary and marine reserve around the Auckland Islands/Motu Maha is already in place. The islands comprise one of New Zealand's three World Heritage sites, recognised for outstanding natural heritage and as of global significance.

"The Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Fisheries, the fishing industry and others with an interest are to work together on protecting the territorial sea around the subantarctics," Mr Anderton said.

"The government has an obligation to New Zealanders and to the international community to protect native species over its land and sea areas, and that includes the southernmost parts of our country."

The Subantarctic Marine Protection Project links into ACAP by seeking to conserve albatross and petrels at sea and on land. While many subantarctic animal species need predator-free areas of dry land to rest and breed, they depend on inshore and offshore marine areas for foraging while breeding, resting and rearing young.

To help public input into marine protection planning, Mr Carter launched at the meeting the publication 'Marine protection for the New Zealand subantarctic islands – a background resource document', and an interactive CD-Rom, showcasing the marine habitats surrounding Campbell, Antipodes and the Bounty island groups.

A planning forum will be set up to identify sites and tools for protecting subantarctic native species and ecosystems. Stakeholders represented will include tangata whenua, the fishing industry, tourism interests and environmental NGOs. The forum will draw on scientific expertise in making its recommendations, which will be submitted to Mr Carter and Mr Anderton for their consideration.

Media contacts: Nick Maling, press secretary to Chris Carter, 04 470 6874, 021 890 170; Sally Griffin, press secretary to Jim Anderton, 04 471 9936; Nicola Vallance DOC national media advisor, 04 471 3158, 0274 846 810. Images and captions: Nicola Vallance

Background notes:

New Zealand Subantarctic islands

New Zealand's subantarctic islands lie scattered across the Campbell Plateau, a submerged portion of the New Zealand continental landmass off the south and eastern coasts of New Zealand.

They occupy the stormy latitudes of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, a transition zone between mainland New Zealand and the less diverse Antarctic regions.

Described by the United Nations Environment Program as "the most diverse and extensive of all subantarctic archipelagos", New Zealand's subantarctic islands contain some of the least modified environments in the world and form one of the last bastions of nature on the planet.

They are home to the most diverse community of seabirds in the southern ocean – more than 40 species breed there (some 10-15% of the world's seabird species) and over 120 species have been seen on or around the islands. Many of the seabirds breed nowhere else in New Zealand or the world, and no one island group supports all species. Due to the large distances between land masses in the Southern Ocean, New Zealand's subantarctic islands are vital breeding grounds for these seabirds.

The islands are also home to several other relatively rare species such as the New Zealand (Hooker's) sea lion, southern royal, Antipodean and Gibson's albatrosses, yellow-eyed, erect-crested, eastern rockhopper penguins, and Campbell Island and Bounty Island shags (which is the world's rarest shag). The world's rarest duck, the Campbell Island teal, also lives on there, and so too does the recently discovered Campbell Island snipe.

ends

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