Marine protection forum fails to meet goals

Recommendations for marine protection in Otago have failed the region’s penguins, dolphins, and sea lions, says Forest & Bird.

The South-East Marine Protection Forum is announcing its recommendations today, but no marine reserves were offered in the southern third of the ocean area – offshore from the wild and scenic Catlins – and many habitat types received no protection at all.

“Severely threatened species such as hoiho/yellow-eyed penguins are on a knife-edge; they are being caught as fishing industry bykill, and threatened by climate change and warming seas,” says Forest & Bird marine advocate Anton van Helden.

“I think New Zealanders will be horrified that we’ve missed this opportunity to safeguard our ocean environment for future generations. If we want to save such iconic species we need to do more.”

The South-East Marine Protection Forum was required, as part of its terms of reference, to establish an ecologically representative and well connected system of Marine Protected Areas. However, neither of the two recommended networks meet that requirement and both networks protect less than five percent of the area as marine reserves.

“If the Forum can’t meet its objectives after three-and-a-half years of work, then the process is flawed,” says Mr van Helden.

“The Forum clearly bent over backwards to cater to existing users like the fishing industry – although ironically, the science is clear that marine reserves increase fish stocks. All the proposals are second best – the best canyon isn’t protected, nor are the best areas for biodiversity. Public access is also a loser here, with shore access to the marine reserves is difficult.

“Public submissions and science overwhelmingly supported more protection – especially in terms of extending protection from the shore right out to the 12 nautical mile limit.”

“We are calling on the Government to implement the largest amount of protection recommended by the Forum. But the Government also needs to urgently work with stakeholders to ensure the terms of reference are met and marine reserves are created in the southern third of the area.”