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Greens set sights on the sea

4 October 1999

Greens set sights on the sea

Launching its conservation policy today, the Green Party is looking beyond saving threatened species on land and is setting its sights on conservation at sea.

A key focus of the policy is developing more marine reserves; working gradually towards protecting 20 percent of New Zealand's economic zone.

"More research is needed to work out the details," Conservation Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons said.

"But the international literature suggests that 20 percent is necessary for fisheries management. Ocean habitat refuges and reserves are increasingly seen as essential tools for fisheries management, breeding bigger fish in greater numbers.

"There hasn't been a lot of solid scientific research, but the evidence there is suggests that fishing harvests actually increase with marine reserves. In the best documented case, in the Philippines, a marine reserve was studied while it was operating and then after it was opened up to fishing again. When the reserve wasn't in operation, catches dropped by 33 to 58 percent.

"Wherever marine reserves have been created in New Zealand, there has been a dramatic increase in the size and number of fish. That's been the story at Leigh north of Auckland, and it has been repeated at Hahei in the Coromandel, the Kapiti Coast and the Poor Knights."

Marine reserves are such an effective fisheries management tool, some scientists have suggested that they may work better than general catch limits. Despite this, less than 0.1 per cent of New Zealand's marine environment is currently protected, compared to about 30 per cent of its land area.

"We are keen to get more marine reserves soon," Ms Fitzsimons said. "But we would develop proposals in consultation with local communities, fishers and tangata whenua. We want to do it right."

The reserve network would include a number of sizeable deepwater marine reserves to protect fragile seamount communities and associated fish. The party's marine reserve strategy would also site some reserves close to towns and cities.

"We don't want people to have to travel long distances to see the amazing abundance of life under the sea," Ms Fitzsimons said.

(See also Hector's dolphin release).

Co-Leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, along with noted conservation photographer and Green list candidate Craig Potton, will launch the party's flagship conservation policy to supporters, environmentalists and the public during a visual presentation by Mr Potton at Unitech's Blue Lecture Theatre, Auckland, (entry from Gate 3, Carrington Rd), at 8pm today.

ENDS

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