Writing letters to editor on marine reserves

Here are a few ideas for writing letters to the editor in support of marine reserves. 

Call for 30% of our seas to be protected in no-take marine reserves:

  • This is based on  IUCN World Conservation Congress, held in Hawai'i in September 2016 where IUCN members set a new global target for MPAs. It calls for ‘30% of each marine habitat’ to be set aside in ‘highly protected MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures’ by 2030, with the ultimate aim being ‘a fully sustainable ocean, at least 30% of which has no extractive activities.’
  • On land, 30% of NZ is protected as conservation land. This should be the case for our oceans as well, and is the minimum need to protect our seas.  Currently NZ has less than half of 1 percent of our ocean space protected.

The scientific arguments for setting aside substantial amounts of the marine environment as no-take areas include:

  • Risk minimisation – protecting a large proportion and replicate examples of a marine area will reduce risks of over-exploitation of harvested resources and consequent effects on the ecosystem, whilst leaving reasonable opportunity for existing activities to continue in the remaining areas
  • Connectivity – the life cycles of most marine organisms mean that offspring from one area often replenish populations in other areas (referred to as ‘connectivity’). As more areas are closed to extractive activities, the benefits to the whole system through such connectivity (both among reserves and between reserves and non-reserves) is expected to increase, thereby offering greater security for conservation
  • Resilience against human and natural catastrophes – for any one disturbance, much of the network of protected areas should remain intact so that affected areas can recover more quickly and completely through replenishment from other non-impacted no-take areas;
  • Harvested species – the protection of 20 - 40% of any fished grounds in no-take areas offers some fisheries the opportunity for better management, and permits no-take areas to maintain more natural population levels of harvested species and, consequently, more natural communities as a whole; and
  • Maintenance of ecological services and goods – in no-take areas, ecosystems can function in a more natural manner which contributes to maintenance of ecological processes. This leads to more sustainable delivery of ecological goods and services to both the environment and humans.

The South-East Marine Protection Forum has been asked to:

  • Protect marine biodiversity by establishing a network of marine protected areas that is comprehensive and representative of the South-East region’s marine habitats and ecosystems, consistent with the Marine Protected Areas Policy which includes  protecting at least one sample of habitat or ecosystem type in a marine reserve. unique and nationally important, use best practice guidelines, simple boundaries
  • How well have they done? Forest & Bird thinks they have delivered proposals which are an inadequate fraction of what is required to allow our treasured marine environment to recover and thrive



  • The reserve proposals, covering just 5.3% of the region’s marine space, don’t even reach the target that New Zealand has signed up to of 10%
  • There are nine habitats with less than 5% representation. Moderately exposed shallow sand and deep reefs are less than 0.5% in marine reserves and moderately exposed intertidal reefs less than 5% – these tend to be the productive zones so have been excluded to minimise impacts on commercial and recreational fishing.  If Saunder’s Canyon and Tow Rock included deep reef habitats will still only be 2.9% of area. There are no deep reefs protected south of the tiny Green Island marine reserve. 
  • Minimal protection for foraging habitats of little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and Hector’s dolphins.


Once healthy seas

  • South Canterbury and Otago’s seas were once healthy with hapuka, crayfish, blue cod and paua being easily caught from the shores, and thriving populations of whales, Hector’s dolphins and penguins.  No longer is it possible to easily get a feed from the shore without getting very wet. Now is the chance to protect a network of sites that will benefit marine life and allow future generations to experience what past generations once loved.
  • We know Hector’s dolphins and yello-eyed penguins are caught in set nets, and their numbers are declining. Based on the limited observer dataset, Richard and Abraham (2015) estimated fatalities of mainland population yellow-eyed penguins in gillnets to be on average 35 birds per year (range: 16-60 birds) with the largest proportion (c. 70%) taken in nets set for sharks. Fishing is the greatest known human threat to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins—responsible for about 75 per cent of reported deaths with a known cause. Set nets are the main fishing threat. Dolphins can get entangled in the fine nylon nets and drown. However, there have also been reports of dolphin captures in trawl nets. Marine reserves are safe havens for these treasured species.

Marine reserves are good for tourism

  • Leigh is a great example of the significant tourism income that can flow from marine protection. In a 2009 study, the total output in Rodney dependent on the existence of the marine reserve is estimated to be $18.6 million per year.  Some $ 12.1 million of this is direct spend by visitors and the balance is the result of flow-on effect through the district economy.  Associated with this output is Total Value Added of $8.2 million per year and employment for 173 FTE’s (full time equivalents) in Rodney, including 10 jobs in marine reserve-related activities. Source: http://tinyurl.com/hj9hp68

Marine reserves are good for recreational fishing

  • Marine reserves achieve big, old fish which are the most fertile and contribute significant of larvae to replenish fished populations. No take zones benefit the surrounding areas in terms of overflow and catch availability.