Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Urgent action to save marine beds

Most New Zealanders flocking to the beach this summer will be unaware of the perilous state of the marine ecosystem beneath the waves. Human land-based activities, sea level rise, disturbance to the seafloor and over-harvesting have created one of the most rapidly changing natural systems in our environment.

I have witnessed this sharp decline in many locations – and I’m not alone. Many iwi and community groups around the country are equally alarmed by the decline in shellfish and other species in their traditional shellfish gathering areas.

Shellfish beds are our most impacted and endangered marine habitats and the story of their decline is being repeated around the world. But these ecosystems are vital. They provide many tangible and deep benefits that support our life, wellbeing and culture. They clean our waters, stabilise the seafloor, feed fish and birds, dampen the effects of storm surge, enhance biodiversity, and remove nutrients that run off the land.

Globally, more than 85 percent of shellfish ecosystems have been impacted by human activity. Researchers have found many oyster reefs, once common, are now rare or extinct as ecosystems. Most of the bays studied in North America, Australia, and Europe were found to be at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance with oysters functionally extinct in others (a measure of less than 1 percent of prior abundances).

We scientists have noted an alarming level of shellfish loss in New Zealand’s coastal harbours and bays – and you may experience this yourself over summer as you revisit favourite shellfish gathering spots.

The photos below document seabed degradation in horse mussel beds in Mahurangi Harbour, north of Auckland. The photos are taken in the same place 18 years apart. This destruction, which shows no sign of recovery, has been caused by the cumulative effects of physical disturbance to the beds, elevated sediment runoff from the harbour’s catchment and a lack of recruitment.

a range of things
grownin on the sea bed, some with
corals

slit on sea bed
with one stalked sea creature

The loss of shellfish habitats also has a knock-on effect for other species such as those that attach to shellfish, and for juvenile fish (including snapper) who seek refuge from predators in these habitats. Shellfish also filter seawater and remove suspended particles in the water thus directly removing the suspended sediments from the water column and depositing this material onto the seafloor

So how do we generate a tipping point that changes the current trend of decline and loss into a trajectory of recovery and abundance?

In recent years community groups and local and central government have, for example, mobilised to restore the integrity of stream margins in farming areas and create predator-free environments for indigenous flora and fauna. I believe that, as a matter of urgent priority, a similar programme is needed for the marine environment, supported by local and central government. Currently, there is no coordinated partnership activity for coastline restoration. However, concerned at the poor state of shellfish beds, several pioneering iwi and community groups have made a start in their local areas.

We need innovative research to inform targeted restoration actions and streamline policies. Research should include gathering baseline data that will inform an in-depth understanding of the current state of our unique indigenous coastal biodiversity, including shellfish ecology. This research could potentially have a similar impact to that around CFCs several decades ago which led to ambitious, whole of system targets to eradicate the production of the chemicals eroding the ozone layer.

Knowledge of the factors causing the rapid decline of our marine ecosystem will enable politicians, nationally and internationally, to target policy and support the implementation of practical responses to greatest effect around our coasts.

Raising awareness and ensuring the public understands the risks and opportunities around our coastlines is integral to ensuring that policy makers and politicians are also seized by the importance of this issue. Scientific knowledge alone cannot ensure the success of restoring our coastal marine ecosystem, community participation and commitment are critical to ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of restoration.

But for that commitment to pay off, we need to have clear and credible information on what, where and how to restore shellfish beds to maximise their contribution to the health of our coastal ecosystems.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Energy Sector: Meridian Spilled Water To Hike Electricity Prices - Authority Ruling

The Electricity Authority has found that generator Meridian Energy manipulated the power market, costing consumers about $80 million. More>>

ALSO:

XE Data Update: RBNZ Official Cash Rate Decision

The RBNZ will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25%. T he key points in the RBNZ statement are: RBNZ keeps the OCR unchanged at 0.25% Maintain the LSAP (large scale asset purchase) at NZD$60 billion. Committee prepared to use additional monetary ... More>>

ALSO:

Electricity: Kiwis Ignore Promise Of Cheaper Power

Electric Kiwi and Flick Electric Co are joint winners of Canstar Blue’s award for Most Satisfied Customers | Electricity Providers From putting on an extra layer – rather than turning on a heater – to turning off lights and choosing the energy-saving ... More>>

ALSO:

Economy: COVID-19 Contributes To 1.6 Percent Fall In March Quarter GDP

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 1.6 percent in the March 2020 quarter, the largest drop in 29 years, as the initial effects of COVID-19 restrictions impacted on economic activity, Stats NZ said today. This quarter’s GDP results showed a widespread drop ... More>>

ALSO:


Electricity: Transmission Pricing For A Low Carbon Future

The Electricity Authority has decided on new guidelines for transmission pricing. James Stevenson-Wallace, Chief Executive of the Electricity Authority says the new guidelines will deliver significant benefits to consumers, through lower electricity ... More>>

ALSO:

ASB: Investor Confidence Falls To Four-Year Low

As the world grapples with the fallout from the most significant pandemic the world has seen in a century, economic concerns are weighing on investors, dragging investor confidence down to a four-year low in the first quarter of the year. For the three ... More>>

ALSO:

Science Media Centre: Funding For R&D In New Zealand – Expert Reaction

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods has today announced $401.3 million funding for research and development through Budget 2020 and the COVID Response and Recovery Fund. The fund includes $150 million for an R&D loan scheme, ... More>>

ALSO:


Science: 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes Announced

The 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been announced in a digital livestream event today. The Prizes recognise the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives, celebrate the achievements of current scientists and encourage scientists of the ... More>>

ALSO:


RNZ: Fuel, Alcohol Costs To Go Up From Today

The increase today in the taxes on fuel, road user charges and alcohol is being called a tone-deaf move. More>>

ALSO:

Stardome Observatory: Young Kiwi Astro-Photographer Shoots For The Stars

Matariki by Josh Kirkley. The stars are aligning for up-and-coming Auckland-based astro-photographer Josh Kirkley (Kāi Tahu). During lockdown, one of his images was picked up by NASA and shared on the space agency’s Instagram to its 59.2 million ... More>>


DCANZ: Time For EU To Commit To A Level Playing Field For Trade

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has welcomed New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker’s statement that it is unacceptable for New Zealand exporters to continue facing an ‘unlevel playing field’ in the EU. Details leaked ... More>>

ALSO:

Potatoes New Zealand: Protecting NZ Fries As Part Of PNZ Pandemic Recovery & Transformation Plan

Potatoes New Zealand has met with Minister Faafoi this week to discuss investigating the potential importation of heavily discounted frozen potato chips into New Zealand. With MBIE’s support we are undertaking an investigation to gather evidence of the ... More>>

ALSO:


New Zealand Government: Supporting Kiwi Businesses To Resolve Rent Disputes

The Government will legislate to ensure businesses that suffered as a result of the COVID-19 response will get help to resolve disputes over commercial rent issues, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today. More>>

ALSO:


Science Media Centre: Understanding 5G Concerns – Expert Q&A


Recent attacks on cell phone towers have brought concerns over the rollout of 5G technology into sharp relief.
While scientific research has consistently shown that the technology does not adversely affect human health, public concerns about its impact have spread around the world, fueled in part by growing misinformation online. The SMC asked experts to comment... More>>

ALSO:


Trade: Record Monthly Surplus As Imports Dive

Imports in April 2020 had their biggest fall since October 2009, resulting in a monthly trade surplus of $1.3 billion, Stats NZ said today. “This is the largest monthly trade surplus on record and the annual goods trade deficit is the lowest ... More>>

ALSO: