< All reports

Sustainable Seas: Managing the Marine Environment

By Lucy Brake and Raewyn Peart
September 2015

Part 1 of the report (page 1 – 199) can be accessed here

Part 2 of the report (page 200 – 420) can be accessed here

As our attention shifts to the sea as the new resource frontier for energy, minerals, aquaculture, tourism and other components of a burgeoning ‘blue economy’, awareness deepens of the need to defend the marine environment from overexploitation. Hence the straight-to-the-point title of this timely book, Sustainable Seas: Managing the Marine Environment, which addresses the challenge of sustainable marine management head-on.

Conservation of the sea has lagged far behind that of land, in New Zealand as everywhere else in the world. While a third of Aotearoa’s land is in conservation areas, less than one per cent of the coastal marine area around the main islands is protected by marine reserves.

Sustainable seas demand responsible governance, which means integrated governance — not easy to achieve in New Zealand’s case, where jurisdiction of the marine environment is apportioned among multiple agencies with multiple policies and pieces of legislation. When it comes to understanding and negotiating this jurisdictional thicket, Sustainable Seas could be called ‘a guide for the perplexed’. It explores and explains relevant legislation and policy, as well as providing case studies and guides to best practice.

A particular focus is the new tool known as ‘marine spatial planning’, which is already showing its worth in the New Zealand setting. It is a way of resolving conflicts of use in the sea — between conservation and fisheries, fisheries and mining, aquaculture and amenity preservation, and so on — by taking an ecosystem-wide approach to marine activities. The aim is to apportion zones for various uses, and zones for protection, based on identifying the ’ecological backbone’ of a marine area.

Despite tools such as marine spatial planning, there are genuine concerns that marine governance may not be adequately precautionary in the face of the significant demands of commercial development. The pressure to extract from the oceans will only increase, and strong voices are needed to speak for the blue wilderness.