An open letter to the South-East Marine Protection Forum
Dear Maree Baker-Galloway, Chair of the South-East Marine Protection Forum,
New Zealand’s South-East seas are home to some of our most loved and iconic marine creatures including New Zealand sea lions, Hector’s dolphins, penguins, and albatrosses, all of which are threatened or endangered.
The South-East Marine Protection Forum has a rare opportunity to help these animals by protecting areas of ocean habitat they and other species depend on. That is the Forum’s role, and would be a legacy to be proud of.
As the Forum knows, there is a scientific consensus that to ensure genuine marine sustainability, at least 30% of the ocean must be protected in no-take marine reserves.
The Forum has identified marine reserve areas that total a mere 5.3% of the region’s marine space. This is a hopelessly inadequate fraction of what is required to allow our treasured marine life to recover and thrive.
But as Chair of the Forum, you have publically indicated that this is the maximum amount that can be hoped for, and is actually likely to be reduced (ODT, Nov 21).
Your statements have put at risk both the integrity of the Forum and worse – the rich natural heritage of the people of Canterbury, Otago, and Southland.
There can be no doubt that 30% of our seas should be protected in ecologically viable networks of no-take areas. Forest & Bird has identified areas covering 18% of the region’s seas that should clearly be protected. This is our proposal for the Forum’s first step towards adequate marine protection, but more is required.
The ocean is in crisis. Our attitudes and practices need to change, and fast. Marine ecosystems are being devastated by over fishing and by-catch, mineral exploitation, climate change, and scariest of all – the overwhelming belief that everything is fine.
The region’s marine life needs the Forum to do its job properly, and to do so without favour. The Forum needs to provide informed and unbiased leadership. Forest & Bird encourages it to do so.
Chief Executive Officer
Forest & Bird