It's time to protect and restore this precious ocean taonga for future generations. By Caroline Wood
Regular readers of this magazine will know that Forest & Bird staff and branch volunteers love the Hauraki Gulf and have been campaigning for many years to protect it.
A version of this story was first published in the Summer 2022 issue of Forest & Bird magazine.
But it continues to be in crisis – overfishing, climate change, and sedimentation run-off are all contributing to the declining state of the Gulf’s waters.
This summer’s predicted marine heatwave will further threaten the area’s sponge gardens, which are sensitive to water temperature changes, and make it harder for kororā little penguins to find food.
The need for action is urgent, and that’s why Forest & Bird is launching a Arohatia Tīkapa Moana | Love the Gulf campaign this summer.
Working with mana whenua and other conservation partners, we are calling for 30% marine protection, a plan of action to reduce sedimentation entering the marine environment, and an end to bottom trawling.
We had an incredible day at Piritahi Marae on Waiheke Island on 10 December launching this campaign to protect the Hauraki Gulf, and celebrating the big blue backyard on Auckland’s doorstep.
Forest & Bird’s chief executive Nicola Toki was there, together with other invited speakers, stalls, food, music, and activities for children.
Organiser Bianca Ranson, Forest & Bird’s Hauraki Gulf coordinator, said: “This year, we have an unprecedented opportunity to come together with mana whenua, community groups, and other e-NGOs to help restore the health and mauri of the Hauraki Gulf.
"Tīkapa Moana requires urgent protection now. Please support us and find out how you can help protect and restore it for future generations to enjoy.”
The first goal of our campaign is to achieve 30% protection for the Hauraki Gulf and use this springboard to persuade the government to protect the same proportion of all of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Many countries have pledged 30% protection for their oceans as a climate action and to protect global biodiversity, but so far New Zealand hasn’t joined them.
But there is hope. In September, government Ministers launched a public consultation over plans for 19 new protection zones for the Hauraki Gulf.
These would increase the area under protection in the Gulf from just over 6% to about 18% – and support the recovery of some of its most biodiverse regions.
Forest & Bird made a detailed submission supporting all 19 zones, which would be created using two new marine protection tools established through legislation.
Twelve High Protection Areas would provide for the expression of customary practices by mana whenua in a way that is consistent with the area’s biodiversity objectives.
There would also be five Seafloor Protection Areas prohibiting activities that damage or disturb the seafloor, such as bottom trawling and mining. Fishing, snorkelling, and kayaking would be allowed.
Another goal of Forest & Bird’s Love the Gulf campaign is to reduce the amount of sedimentation and other pollution running off the land into the water, damaging or killing marine life.
Ban bottom trawling now!
Forest & Bird wants the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to ban all forms of mobile bottom-contact fishing, including bottom trawling, scallop dredging, and Danish seining within Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
For decades, commercial fishers have been using these destructive fishing methods to rip up the seafloor. Many seabed species and habitats are being decimated, and whole ecosystems have disappeared from the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
A survey in November 2021 showed 84% of people living in the Gulf area want these fishing methods gone from Hauraki Gulf Marine Park for good, yet, shockingly, they are being allowed to continue.
In August, Forest & Bird joined the Hauraki Gulf Alliance, an unprecedented gathering of organisations that has come together to campaign for the removal of these fishing practices to boost marine life in the Gulf.
Forest & Bird’s marine advocate Geoff Keey is a member of the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan Advisory Group. It is tasked with helping the Minister and MPI implement a move to ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Gulf.
“We need to show the strength of community feeling about this issue to the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries because he has the power to remove trawling and dredging from the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park,” says Geoff.
“The long overdue move to ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Gulf has the power to be a seachange. We want to see the fisheries plan become a model for how to manage fisheries by ecosystem and roll it out for the whole country.”
Sign our petitions
The Government is proposing 19 new protection zones across the Gulf. This is the result of years of collaboration and consultation between decision-makers, mana whenua and stakeholders. This exciting proposal would lift the proportion of the Gulf protected from 6% to 18% – an important step towards our 30% goal.
Sign the petition to show your support for more marine protection
Destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling, dredging, and Danish seining have been ripping up the seafloor and decimating benthic ecosystems for decades. We're calling for an end to these practices within the Gulf.
Sign the petition to call for an end to bottom trawling in the Gulf