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New marine protected area policy a good start

New marine protected area policy a good start

Forest and Bird today welcomed the Government announcement of a new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Policy as a step in the right direction.

“The success of the policy will depend on developing a standard that clearly defines what a “protected area” is,” Forest & Bird senior researcher Barry Weeber said

“Forest and Bird also welcomes the more comprehensive science-based approach to identify potential marine areas worthy of protection,” he said.

“The benefits of marine reserves to biodiversity, the marine environment, and marine science have been well proven after more than 25 years of research.”

“Marine reserves provide a unique opportunity to protect whole marine ecosystems, so that we can see what our marine life used to look like,” said Mr Weeber. “Marine reserves are also crucial for our understanding of fish biology and ecology and so can help guide marine management elsewhere.”

“On land native forest logging is prohibited in protected areas. It would be logical for the MPA policy to stop ecologically damaging fishing methods such as bottom trawling or dredging in protected areas.”

Mr Weeber said it was clear that marine reserves fit the criteria for an MPA as they prohibit fishing and mining.

Mr Weeber said Australia, South Africa and Fiji were ahead of New Zealand in developing a comprehensive network of protected marine areas.

“If it is to be effectively implemented, this policy will need adequate funding and commitment from a range of agencies, including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries,” he said.

"Marine conservation is decades behind conservation efforts on land. Many people may be surprised that less than one percent of New Zealand’s mainland coast is protected in marine reserves,” he said.

“We are disappointed that the Nuggets marine reserve proposal is being folded into this new process as it has been through a similar process twice over the last 15 years, and was close to being applied for by the Department of Conservation.”

Notes:

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.

The Government currently has a target of 10 percent of the marine environment in marine protected areas by 2010. There is an international scientific consensus that 20 percent of the marine environment should be protected in marine

A March 2005 opinion poll for WWF found that 95 percent of New Zealanders wanted more marine reserves.

New Zealand has 31 marine reserves and two marine mammal sanctuaries. The marine reserves range in size from the Kermadec Islands reserve at 748,000 ha down to the Te Awaatu Channel (the Gut) Marine Reserve in Fiordland at 93ha. Most marine reserves are under 2000 ha in size.

Four additional marine reserve applications have yet to be approved. They include the proposed Taputeranga marine reserve on the Wellington South Coast which was a joint application by Forest and Bird and South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition.

The MPA policy can be found at MPA Policy

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