22 June 2014

TAIAO: Forests protected .. oceans less ...why the diff?

Gareth's World ...  given we have so much ocean there is bound to be plenty of resource out there – including fish, energy, oil, ironsands & minerals (like phosphate on the Chatham Rise) .. 

There are massive economic opportunities & our government knows it, which is why they have been so gung-ho in pursuing them. 

The irony is that their lack of consideration for the environment is turning their quest for riches into an own goal. 

We have seen this with the recent decision to reject the mining of ironsands off the coast of Taranaki.

Despite what the government thinks, protecting the environment would actually be good for business. There are plenty of economic reasons to protect our most important ocean ecosystems.

For starters NZ has a paltry amount of our ocean locked up in proper marine reserves – less than 1%. This compares to roughly a third of our land. Do we think that level of protection is bad for business? 

A decent level of marine protection would give the public the certainty that our environment is being looked after. This would make the government’s attempts to use more of our ocean resources more palatable. 

As on land, marine protection underpins economic exploitation. The fact is that any human endeavour can have uncertain side effects. Things can go wrong, as we saw in the Gulf of Mexico. Protected areas are an insurance policy against the ocean ecosystem falling over.

As we have seen on the Great Barrier Reef the parts that are protected in marine reserves are more resistant to damage, such as from climate change or pollution.

Another reason protection is important is our overseas image. Like it or not, we are known for our 100% Pure brand & overseas consumers will increasingly hold us to account.  Polishing off Maui’s dolphin would not be a good look for any country, let alone one with our reputation.

Consumers are also demanding their fish is sustainably sourced – & marine protection is a part of that equation. NZ is falling behind in this respect & all the while we return to the crutch that our QMS is ‘world leading’.

The QMS was world leading twenty-five years ago, but not now. The Aussies & many US states now manage their oceans better than us; we are no longer the golden boy of the ocean club.

The fact is that protection & planning how to use our oceans (zoning, as we do on land) provides certainty for investors. There are more & more industries using the ocean – fishing, aquaculture, mining & energy as well as Jane & Joe average recreational users. We need to think & plan ahead for how we manage conflicts that can arise between users.

We are seeing these conflicts play out right now on the Chatham Rise - subs close 9 July..  There is a proposal to mine rockphosphate in an area that is important for fishing. It also ironically includes an area where bottom trawling is banned to protect the seafloor – making a mockery of our 'Benthic Protected Areas'.

Spatial planning would provide such certainty for all users, which is good for investment & good for business. It is simple property rights. 

The National government should understand that. We are seeing this approach trialled in the Hauraki Gulf – but it remains to be seen how the process will work & what the government will do with the outcome.

Now is the time to act on marine protection in our EEZ. Then we can think about exploiting the resources we have out there. The irony is that we led the world by designing a marine protection proposal for the Ross Sea, yet we haven’t even done it in our own ocean.

  • I hate the commercial fishing industry & its practices. Compare our seas now to even just fifty years ago. Even after all the degradation of this wonderful resource we still have fish but many cannot afford to buy fresh fish that seem to be overpriced for our incomes. Can an average family justify going out & buying a couple of crayfish for a meal? For many the common snapper is out of reach of many peoples budgets. The seas crawling with theses scavengers. Instead much of 'our fish' is sold to overseas people. The US, China & Australia are the ones that get to eat 'our fish' not us. Seems abjectly wrong, crazy even that a few commercial interests & rich foreigners get the benefits of 'our fish'.

  • I dream of a day when fishing is for NZers. Our own market matched to our incomes not competing for the rest of the world for our own fish. The excess could stay in the ocean. Forget marine reserves this would see us having the best oceans in the world. Now there's 100% clean & green for your tourism board. Imagine the external health benefits alone of us having fish as an affordable source of protein. Alas this is but a dream. Gareth your crusade seems to be to bring our native bush back to life & is a great ideal but all we need to do this with our oceans is stop over fishing it. If what Commercial fishers do at sea we saw on land there would be outrage but their interests still seem to be given so much weight for so long. They will not even modify their techniques to save a species of dolphin that's on the brink of extinction. Clean & Green NZ is not.

  • Well stated... & I would simply add that what we are doing currently is just not working or sustainable.....

  • Well said Gareth. Take care of the environment & the environment will take care of you!

  • I am interested to read your explanation/evidence as to why NZ is 'falling behind' in regards to sustainable utilisation of fish stocks. I am also interested to know what aspects of the Australian system you consider to be superior. & finally, why do you persist with the erroneous view that 'marine protection' is contingent upon the establishment of no take marine reserves - especially when so much of the EEZ is 'no take' by default?

  • Aussie has higher stock targets than us & in many areas has reconciled the recreational/ commercial issue. But the main issue with the QMS is bycatch in particular NZ industry has not dealt with bird kills, especially inshore. There are many levels of marine protection, no take are the easiest to understand & the gold standard. The only substantial protected area in NZ is the BPAs - these are not representative & barely register on the lowest rung of the international scale of protection.

  • 'Most of the EEZ is no take by default' - frankly this is a limp wristed response. Firstly this is hardly representative (like the BPAs) & secondly by default is not the same as officially protected.

  • Hi Gareth, what do you see that is wrong with NZ's QMS?

  • In summary the recreational sector needs to be brought in & the commercial sector needs to take account of externalities - such as bycatch, impacts of bottom trawling etc. 
 MPI have been glacially slow to bring in standards for these things.