Seize chance to protect our seas, WWF
The call comes as the Department of Conservation confirmed just 0.3% of New Zealand's marine environment is protected in marine reserves compared to 19.03% of New Zealand's land with equivalent protection (example, National Parks). The information was obtained from DOC under the Official Information Act and released by WWF today (news eds: 30 March 2011).
Commenting on the information, WWF-New Zealand's Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird said: "Our oceans are home to around 80% of New Zealand's biodiversity yet less than 1% of our marine habitats have the highest level of protection, compared to nearly 20% of our land. The message this sends is clear - we need to do much more to protect life in our oceans. New Zealand has one of the largest areas of ocean, and some areas are home to such a significant diversity of wildlife they should never be exploited. We're calling on the Government to safeguard our life in our seas with a national network of marine reserves, so New Zealanders can continue to enjoy healthy, thriving oceans."
She said marine reserves - areas of the sea which are declared off-limits for exploitation - are most effective in protecting life in our oceans when they act as a network: "We can help safeguard life in our oceans by setting aside a proportion of each marine habitat in marine reserves, from our rocky shores, our beaches and harbours, to our deep seas," said Ms Bird. WWF is campaigning for marine reserves to cover 30% of our oceans.
In 2005, Colmar Brunton research commissioned by WWF found nine in ten New Zealanders believed the area of New Zealand's marine reserves was greater than it actually was. When asked how much they thought should be protected, on average, people said they felt 36 per cent of our oceans should be protected.
"New Zealanders love spending time on, near or by the ocean. If we're lucky enough to see a pod of Maui's dolphins or witness a soaring albatross, it's an exhilarating experience and part of our great Kiwi passion for spending time at the beach or on the water," said WWF's Ms Bird. "The majority of New Zealanders want much more of our seas fully protected in marine reserves, and we're calling on the Government to act on this, and seize the opportunity we have today to safeguard life in our oceans."
She added that WWF publication Future Seas showed that a national network of marine reserves was critical to the health of marine industries such as fishing that depend on a healthy functioning marine ecosystem.
Commenting on the Government's recent announcement of the subantarctic marine reserve, Ms Bird said: "Moves like the new 435,000 hectare marine reserve surrounding Antipodes Island, the Bounty Islands and Campbell Island are welcome because an area that is home to a significant diversity of wildlife is now better protected. But there are many more areas of our oceans which are similarly diverse and special and ought to be protected."
WWF urges the government to re-commit to a comprehensive marine protection implementation process together with a national strategic oversight process and to remove the moratorium on marine protection in our Exclusive Economic Zone. We must act on the wishes of New Zealanders by ensuring we have adequately protected biodiversity in a comprehensive, representative network of marine reserves - safeguarding our oceans for future generations.