Marine protection misses Catlins coast
By Fergus Sutherland, Papatowai conservationist
The South East Marine Protection Forum, of which I was a member, was asked to obtain a consensus on a network of marine protection mechanisms, including full marine reserves, for the range of marine habitats on the coast and out to the 12 nautical mile limit between Timaru and Waipapa Point in Southland.
The forum had members representing fishing interests, scientists, iwi, conservation, community and tourism and was supported by the Department of Conservation and Department of Fisheries.
The process was to take about 18 months but ended up taking nearly three years.
Consensus was not achieved because in the last few months the fishing industry representatives and one recreational fisher announced that they would prepare and submit their own network proposal.
This meant that two proposals were submitted to the government. The fishing industry proposal was very limited, to say the least. and the government subsequently decided to go with the more comprehensive proposal put forward by the remaining representatives.
This more representative proposal, however, had already been reduced in scope in an endeavour to reach agreement before it was apparent that fishing interests were not going to compromise.
This reduction in scope was particularly significant for the rich and varied stretch of coast between Nugget Point and Waipapa Point – the land area known as The Catlins.
The limitations of the current proposal are therefore mainly in The Catlins which needs a significant marine reserve to make the network more fully representative.
There are also shortfalls further north where the small canyon off the Otago Peninsula is proposed rather that the larger iconic and wildlife-rich Saunders canyon.
The coastal Highcliff Reserve also excludes some very significant reef habitat, and trawl and the nearby offshore set net restriction proposed is too limited to fully protect very significant wildlife foraging habitat.
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