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Marine environment critical for biodiversity

18 February 2005

WWF launches report showing 50% of New Zealand's marine environment critical for biodiversity

WWF launches a report today that shows the key areas for biodiversity in New Zealand's marine environment. These areas are critical for the protection of New Zealand's irreplaceable marine species. Most of these species occur only in New Zealand waters. This is the first time a report of this kind has been produced.

Initiated by WWF-New Zealand, the report is an independent, scientific assessment of New Zealand's distinctive marine environment. It documents the work of twenty-two marine scientists who identified, described, and mapped key biodiversity areas and features for marine plants and animals at an expert workshop convened by WWF.

WWF believes that the level of protection for marine life should be increased. Less than 1% of New Zealand's marine environment is currently protected for biodiversity. Time is running out to safeguard this vital resource for future generations.

"This report provides a scientific foundation on which to advance the dialogue about marine protection in New Zealand. Investigation of the options for protecting biodiversity in these critical areas should be undertaken urgently," says Chris Howe, Conservation Director, WWF-New Zealand.

"WWF supports a consultative approach to the development of marine protected areas, where a wide range of stakeholders are consulted and social, economic, and cultural principles are taken into consideration. This will help us to achieve a representative, comprehensive and adequate network of marine protected areas," adds Chris Howe.

Hon. David Benson-Pope, New Zealand Minister of Fisheries, supports the findings of the report at a launch today at WWF's Wellington HQ. It provides an accessible and independent summary of New Zealand's distinctive marine biodiversity.

The report identifies, for the first time, New Zealand's marine biodiversity hotspots. These are the most diverse in the world, from the sub tropical environment in the north to the sub-antarctic Islands of the South.

"This is the first time this information has been collated and mapped, by some of New Zealand's best minds in marine science," says Chris Howe.

New Zealand's marine environment has been identified by WWF as one of the top global priorities for conservation action.

ENDS

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