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Better protecting our unique marine environment

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Fisheries
Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

14 February 2008 Media Release
Better protecting our unique marine environment

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick have today announced the next step in protecting New Zealand’s marine environment.

The country has been divided into 14 coastal regions to create a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that reflect the diversity of New Zealand’s marine environment. Local groups, or forums, will now identify which areas in each region should be protected.

“This is part of the Labour- Progressive government’s commitment to having 10 per cent of our coastal marine environment protected by 2010, as stated in the Biodiversity Strategy of 2000,” Jim Anderton said.

There will be three types of marine protection in these regions:

- Marine Reserves – highest form of protection that prohibits taking anything from the water.

- Other marine protected areas – allows some activities, but prohibits anything that would significantly change the overall environment, e.g. bottom trawling, dredging.

- Other marine protection tools – protects certain plants or animals in the marine environment.

Jim Anderton said these standards, or levels of protection, will help to identify what marine protection is already in place around New Zealand and what more needs to be done.

“Today’s announcement means that community groups, called Marine Protection Planning Forums, can start looking at the best way for each region to protect their local habitats,” he said.

The forums will consist of tangata whenua and local groups, including commercial and recreational users, environmental groups, regional councils and tourism operators. They will work together to recommend new areas that should be protected in each region,.These will then be considered by Ministers.

Steve Chadwick said four of the 14 regions have been chosen to start this work: West Coast South Island region, Otago-Southland region, the Hauraki Gulf area and the Sub-Antarctic region, which covers the Auckland, Campbell and Bounty Islands.

“Work is already well underway on the West Coast and the other areas will follow now that this technical information is available. Setting up marine protected areas is vital to the Labour-Progressive government’s aim to preserve our rich natural marine heritage for future generations.”

Details of the implementation of this policy in particular regions are on the following website, www.biodiveristy.govt.nz/mpas

--

Background Information

14 coastal regions
Each of the 14 coastal regions is classified according to local environmental factors that characterise the area, such as water temperature or depth. For example, different species would live in the warm waters around the Poor Knights Islands in Northland compared to sub-Antarctic islands, or similar rocky headlands in Northland or Otago would be home to very different plants and animals.

In each region there are two broad environment types; estuarine and marine.

New Zealand’s marine environment
New Zealand’s diverse marine environment covers an area of approximately 4.1 million square kilometres.

More than 15,000 marine species have been found living in New Zealand’s territorial sea (the area of sea from the coast out to 12 nautical miles) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – the area of sea from the territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles), and it is estimated that a further 50,000 may also be found. This represents perhaps 10% of the world’s total marine species.

Why proceed with marine protected areas?
New Zealand has a particularly rich and complex seascape, making it a world hotspot for marine biodiversity, which the Labour-led government is committed to protecting for study and for future generations.

In addition, our isolation in the south-west Pacific means that there are many species that are unique to New Zealand. The network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will include examples of all 44 major marine habitats, as well as places that are nationally or internationally outstanding, distinctive or rare.

What are we trying to achieve
The long term objective is to protect a full range of habitats and ecosystems that is representative of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity. For each of the 44 habitats in each region, the MPA policy requires the establishment of at least two MPAs - one marine reserve and one where some activities can occur.

Making progress by 2010
Achieving the full objective will take time. The 2010 target is for marine protection over at least 10 per cent of New Zealand’s territorial sea and of the EEZ.

Involving communities and tangata whenua
MFish and DOC staff are working together to provide an inventory of the habitats and ecosystems that are already protected.

Community-based Marine Protection Planning Forums will recommend what other areas within their region should be protected.


ENDS

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