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Marine Protected Areas needed - Minister

Marine Protected Areas needed - Minister

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are vital to protect important habitats and feeding areas for marine mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage wants to see more developed.

Ms Sage has just returned from Antarctica where she was able to visit the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area which came into effect on 1 December 2017.

“The huge area protects a complex ecosystem with iconic species such as killer whales, Weddell seals, Emperor penguins, and krill which sustains the whole food web.

“72 % of the Ross Sea region MPA is protected from fishing, but only for the next 35 years, not permanently.

“New Zealand now has a major responsibility in leading work on a research and monitoring plan to measure the effectiveness of the MPA. It will be critical to informing the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) decision on whether to extend the restrictions on fishing several decades from now.

“Research in the MPA will provide invaluable information about species and the impacts of fishing for krill and toothfish.

“Marine Protected Areas put conservation and scientific research first and New Zealand wants to see more developed around Antarctica.

“Other marine protected areas proposed for the Southern Ocean deserve the same support as the Ross Sea one.”

Ms Sage will be pushing for more MPAs in New Zealand waters too.

“Business as usual isn’t an option if we want sustainable fisheries and healthy marine systems for present and future generations.”

Note to editors:

The Ross Sea Region MPA is 1.55 million square kilometres, or six times the size of New Zealand and came into effect after the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) adopted a joint New Zealand/United States proposal.

The Ross Sea region includes one of the most productive areas of the Southern Ocean, the Ross Sea Shelf. At different times of the year the region is home to:

• more than 30% of the world’s Adélie penguins
• around one quarter of all emperor penguins
• around 30% of Antarctic petrels, and
• around half of Ross Sea killer whales.
• More than 50% of South Pacific Weddell seals live there year round.
• It contains rare and vulnerable benthic species such as unique sponges that live for up to 500 years, breeding grounds and habitats for Antarctic toothfish, and other areas of importance for ecosystem integrity.

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