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EDS calls for urgent action on marine management

17 October 2019

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has welcomed the publication by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ of Our Marine Environment 2019, the latest in the reports on the state of our environment. The report is available here.

“The report is an excellent compilation of data that gives a useful overview of the state of our extensive marine environment, both along our extensive coastline and in the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“Whilst the report describes the state of these natural systems, it does not offer management solutions. In many respects that is a strength rather than a weakness of the environmental reporting system: it simply tells us the facts about the state of the marine domain and leaves consideration of responses to others.

“As expected, there are some big issues to address. These include many marine species and habitats that are in serious trouble. Of the sample investigated, the report finds that 22% of marine mammals, 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds are threatened with or actually at risk of extinction. This is very seriously troubling.

“Further, human activities at sea are having a significant adverse effect on vast swathes of the seabed habitat from trawling and dredging. There are continuing threats from biological incursions brought here by shipping.

“Human activities on land are producing pollution, sediment and large volumes of litter including plastics. These come from both cities and from agriculture and forestry.

“Climate change is causing acidification of the sea, rising sea levels and warming of the ocean. These all have impacts on shellfish, on coastal settlements and on the rate of CO2 absorption by the ocean.

“In our view the report demonstrates clearly that we need to take a fresh and comprehensive look at how we can better manage our oceans in the 2020s and beyond.

“We should ask whether the panoply of laws and institutions we have in play, most of which date back to last century, are still fit for purpose. Are there better ways of managing the marine environment that would lead to improvements in its ecological health?

“EDS contends that such a review is urgently needed. We should examine new tools, like marine spatial planning; deploy ecosystem-based management for our fisheries; encourage real innovation to find less harmful methods of fishing that reduce or eliminate seabird and marine mammal bycatch and seabed destruction; and strengthen freshwater management to reduce pollution from our land-based activities.

“We congratulate the 2 agencies on Our Marine Environment 2019. But let’s not just put the report on the shelf,” Mr Taylor concluded.