Marine Reserves: Extending New Zealand’s Marine Reserves for the purpose of fish stocks protection is misguided!

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Recently I posted a response to an article by Jay Harkness (New Zealand Marine Reserves Too Small) in the Dominion Post (26th March) Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Adequacy of spatial management re-emerging issue in New Zealand! Why?.

This article by Harkness extolled the benefits of extending New Zealand’s Marine Reserve Network to incorporate 30% of all the waters under New Zealand jurisdiction… My post vehemently disagreed with Harkness’s approach, stating instead that over 30% of the marine area under New Zealand jurisdiction is already subject to regulatory protections (Benthic Protected Areas (BPAs) and Seamount closures).

Recently I was sent a Op-Ed that was written for the Dominion Post in response to the Harkness article. Unfortunately the Dominion Post published Pamela Mace’s Op-Ed  (New Zealand Fisheries: Most fish stocks in a healthy state!instead, so I am going to post it below…

Targeted Marine Protection Better Than Naive Biology

Demanding expansion of Marine Reserves to protect fish stocks is a bit like setting fire to your house any time you are cold.  It’s not very targeted to the outcome of getting warm.

Jay Harkness (DominionPost 26th March) posits that only by extending Marine Reserves over a third of New Zealand waters can New Zealand fish stocks be preserved.

First of all, Jay Harkness provides no evidence at all for the claim that New Zealand’s marine fish stocks are in steep decline.  No numbers are given – no species are cited.

Some people may wish to believe there are fewer fish out there, but that doesn’t make it true.  The Quota Management System has set limits to fishing particular fish species since 1986.  If a species’ volume declines, often through quite natural fluctuations, then the Total Allowable Catch is reduced.

Undersea New Zealand, a high resolution image of the complex and diverse marine realm around New Zealand. Undersea New Zealand provides a unique insight into the shape of the seafloor within one of the world's most extensive deepwater jurisdictions. New Zealand straddles an active plate margin, creating a highly complex and diverse seascape of submarine trenches, underwater volcanoes, active submarine canyons and quiescent broad plateaux. Copyright 2012 NIWA. http://www.niwa.co.nz/news/new-map-reveals-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-seafloor-in-stunning-detail

Undersea New Zealand, a high resolution image of the complex and diverse marine realm around New Zealand. Undersea New Zealand provides a unique insight into the shape of the seafloor within one of the world’s most extensive deepwater jurisdictions. New Zealand straddles an active plate margin, creating a highly complex and diverse seascape of submarine trenches, underwater volcanoes, active submarine canyons and quiescent broad plateaux. Copyright 2012 NIWA.
http://www.niwa.co.nz/news/new-map-reveals-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-seafloor-in-stunning-detail

The Ministry for Primary Industries reported last year that only 0.5 per cent of our fish stocks are below the ‘hard limit’ where closures or reductions were necessary.

Recreational fishers through New Zealand are reporting significantly increased catches over a range of species.

Commercial inshore stocks are blossoming, with evidence both anecdotal and scientific.

The major Campbell Island southern blue whiting fishery numbers are at a historic high.

Other deepwater fisheries, such as the much-pointed-at orange roughy, are increasing, with 140 million of them in our seas.  The industry itself has set catch targets below the QMS level as an additional assurance that the orange roughy numbers will continue to increase over the next few years.

Marine Reserves obviously have a role in protecting particular areas, either for the unique or fragile nature of the ecosystem, or because they are where fish or other marine species breed.  They are targeted and have usually achieved a greater biodiversity within and beyond where they are because of their special nature.

But the same formula does not work for every environment.  Marine Reserves everywhere may make a good slogan, but the slogan is biologically naive.

Jay Harkness compares the third of the New Zealand land area ‘managed for conservation purposes’, with a presumed miniscule proportion of the sea area.

Both ends of this need examining.  The land area ‘managed for conservation purposes’ is under a plethora of protection measures, including a World Heritage Area, National Parks, Nature Reserves (such as Kapiti Island) Scientific Reserves (Mana Island) as well as Scientific and Historic Reserves (Matiu Island).  Landowners have covenanted 122,275 hectares of land under the QEII Trust.  Diverse forms of Maori stewardship apply to large areas.  One formula is not used alone.  Conservation is targeted and tailored.

Likewise, for the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone of our seas, the Benthic Protection Areas cover, interestingly enough, one third of the entire seabed.  This vast region of seabed can’t be fished, effectively giving the same protection as a marine reserve would give.

There are Marine Parks and the Marine Mammal Sanctuaries.  There are targeted fishing restrictions to protect Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins (though ridiculously overextended to areas where the dolphins aren’t) as well as regulations about when and how to catch various species of fish and how big or small they are allowed to be.

Controls over commercial fishing, and its monitoring and enforcement, are more than those for any land based primary industry.  Though some rules are dated, and some are not sensible, the overall system will supply New Zealand customers and export markets with seafood for many generations to come.

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2 thoughts on “Marine Reserves: Extending New Zealand’s Marine Reserves for the purpose of fish stocks protection is misguided!

  1. Pingback: Maui’s Dolphins: Swimming in a sea of all sorts of mischief? | Green Fish Blue Fish

  2. Pingback: Chinese Subsidies threaten survival of Western and Central Pacific Seafood Industry! | Green Fish Blue Fish

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