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Nuggets should go first

30 January 2005

Nuggets should go first

Forest and Bird is disappointed that the Nuggets marine reserve proposal has again been delayed when it was so close to being advertised by the Department of Conservation.

"Nugget Point and the surrounding islands are biologically rich, and deserve to be a marine reserve," said Forest and Bird's Southern Conservation Officer, Sue Maturin.

"There has been extensive consultation on a marine reserve at Nugget Point in Otago for over 15 years."

Ms Maturin said Forest and Bird believes the application should proceed. "If it is going to be folded into a new marine protected areas process then Otago must be a priority area for this year and not go to the back of the queue."

"The Nuggets have been through extensive consultation twice over the last 15 years. Scientists have studied the area and advised that its biodiversity is unique and there are no other marine reserves in Otago."

"It is clear that under any robust process of ecological assessment, the Nuggets would qualify as a unique area, worthy of the highest level of protection."

"Marine reserves provide the only opportunity to protect whole marine ecosystems, so that we can see what our marine life used to look like," said Ms Maturin. "Marine reserves are also crucial for our understanding of fish biology and ecology that will help guide management elsewhere."

Ms Maturin said that Nugget Point/Tokata is an area representative of the many different types of coastal habitats within Otago and Southland's diverse marine ecosystem.

"The area includes: shallow water reefs (great for snorkelling and monitoring marine life); deep, exposed coastal and open waters (that support abundant marine mammal life and sea birds) and important Macrocystis (sea weed/kelp) reefs that support the underwater ecosystem."


Notes:

The Nuggets is important for breeding, foraging and/ or moulting purposes by a variety of both endemic and visiting marine wildlife. This includes:

* Seabirds including red-billed and black-backed gulls, spotted and Stewart Island shags, sooty shearwaters and is the only area on the east coast of the South Island to support a small colony of Australasian gannets.

* Penguins including: yellow-eyed, blue, rockhopper, Fiordland crested, Snares crested and erect crested.

* Marine mammals including: sea lions, elephant seals, fur seals, leopard seals, dolphins and whales; Nugget Point/Tokata area is the only place on mainland New Zealand where elephant seals, New Zealand sea lions and New Zealand fur seals co-exist.

* There are also many fish and shellfish species and important features of the marine habitat include extensive seaweeds, rocky outcrops, sheltered and exposed bays and nutrient dispersal through cold water circulation.

Currently the proportion of mainland New Zealand's coastal waters in this form of protection is less than one percent, yet about 30 percent of land is protected for conservation purposes. There is currently only one marine reserve on the East Coast of the South Island.

ENDS


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