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Better marine protection with Court of Appeal decision

Forest & Bird says a Court of Appeal decision allowing local councils to regulate fishing activity is hugely significant for New Zealand’s coastal environment.

Today’s decision upheld the High Court and Environment Court’s rulings that the RMA can be used to protect New Zealand’s coastal marine environment from the negative effects of fishing.

Forest & Bird, along with the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, defended the case against the inshore fishing industry.

“Just two weeks ago, the Ministry for the Environment released a report showing how disastrously degraded New Zealand’s oceans have become,” says Forest & Bird Legal Counsel Peter Anderson.

“Destructive fishing practices have seen entire ecosystems collapse.

“The key issue for the Court of Appeal was whether regional councils can exercise controls on fishing, or whether they are prohibited from doing so by the Fisheries Act, as argued by the fishing industry.”

The Court of Appeal found that councils could control fishing provided it was not for a Fisheries Act purpose. The Court gave some helpful guidelines for determining purpose, specifically the necessity, type, scope, scale and location of control.

One of the many significant issues that result from overfishing is kina barrens. These occur when all the large snapper and lobster are fished out. Kina flourish in the absence of these predators and the vastly increased numbers of kina can destroy entire ecosystems. Controls to protect marine ecosystems from becoming kina barrens would be acceptable under the Court of Appeal guidelines as not being for a fishing purpose.

“The Court of Appeal’s decision is confirmation that communities have the right to protect their coastal environments from the effects of bad fishing practice,” says Mr Anderson.

“It is very exciting news for everyone with a stake in the health of New Zealand’s coastal ecosystems.”

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