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Call For Protection Of Underwater Fiordland

The fiords of Fiordland deserve to be protected within the Fiordland National Park and included in the South West World Heritage Area, according to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Society spokesperson Sue Maturin presented Forest and Bird's proposals to include the fiords in the National Park to the Marine Sciences, Fiordland Symposium in Wellington yesterday.

"Fiord marine communities are unique, spectacular and unlike anywhere else on the planet. Conservationists and scientists have talked in circles for years about how to protect them but we have been stymied by inappropriate legislation and the enormity of the task," Sue Maturin said.

Forest and Bird believes the simplest way forward may be to amend the National Parks Act so that it can include marine areas.

"Protecting the fiords is urgent as there are increasing demands to exploit Fiordland's marine areas by new and existing extractive industries. There is a proposal to harvest large quantities of kina and every month there are more charter boats wanting to set up fishing and diving charters," Sue Maturin said.

"Everyone has the impression that the fiords are huge but the actual area where the majority of marine life lives is restricted to a very narrow band about 40m deep around the rock walls. This equates to an area smaller than Wellington harbour."

The fiords have the world's largest population of black coral and are the only place in the world where the colonies are within easily divable depths. Each fiord has its own unique assemblages of plants and animals, some of which may be genetically distinct. It is now thought that the kina in each fiord may be genetically different.

The park should include:

*A significant proportion of no take areas (80-90% of the inner fiords).
*Representative areas (20 -50%) of the outer fiords and the outer coast.
*Some areas specially set aside for recreational exploitative fishing and diving.
*Protection for existing sustainable fisheries.
Recognition of anchorages and existing shore based facilities.
*Some remote experience/wilderness areas where in order to prevent overcrowding there may need to be restrictions on access.
*Specially protected areas set aside for research and monitoring.

"Many New Zealanders and visitors think the fiords are already protected as part of the Fiordland National Park, but the Park stops at mean high tide. Protection of the fiords would be one of the most exciting advances in marine conservation in New Zealand," Sue Maturin said.


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