Independent report highlights Government’s failure to protect our marine environment

The latest independent report on the state of our marine environment is a damning indictment of New Zealand’s marine management, says Forest & Bird.

Today’s release of ‘Our Marine Environment 2016’ by Statistics NZ and the Ministry for the Environment details the continuing decline in the health of our seas. Our coastal waters are polluted, much of our marine wildlife is heading for extinction, and climate change and ocean acidification are a major threat.

“Despite years of promises, the Government has failed to protect our seas,” says Kevin Hackwell, Forest & Bird’s Campaigns and Advocacy Manager. “As shown in this report, most of the indicators are heading downhill.”

According to data contained in the report, 90% of our seabirds and shorebirds are threatened with extinction, 28% of our marine mammal species are threatened with extinction, and five marine mammal species are critically endangered.

“We are looking at a future where the next generation may not see many of the birds, whales, dolphins and seals that we take for granted,” says Kevin Hackwell.

The data in this report reflects the failure of Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and its predecessor the Ministry of Fisheries to regulate the impacts of fishing. “Officials have been all too ready to protect the fishing industry and have failed to protect the oceans.”

“This is what happens when the regulator gets too close to the industry they are tasked with overseeing.”

For years the Ministry for Primary Industries has been confidently telling New Zealanders that our fisheries are sustainable, yet this independent assessment reveals that there isn’t enough data for the full ecological impacts of fishing to be clear. In the face of this uncertainty, the Government should be taking a precautionary approach to managing our marine environment.

The report also highlights the failure of the Government to create robust legislation to provide for an adequate network of marine reserves.

Forest & Bird notes that the report does not paint a full picture of the threats to our marine environment. For example, there is no mention of the impacts of noise disturbance on our marine mammals, and very little on the threats to marine ecosystems from seabed mining, and oil and gas exploration.

However, the report is a timely and useful reminder that we need an urgent change in approach if we are to save our unique marine species and habitats.

Forest & Bird is calling for an action plan from Government that will address the crisis outlined in this report. “Of critical importance is an overhaul of MPI to turn it into an effective agency to regulate fishing and protect the marine environment,” says Kevin Hackwell.

“In addition, we want to see robust legislation to provide for marine reserves, a clear pathway to cleaner coastal waters and a plan to get our greenhouse gas emissions under control.”

Soon Forest & Bird will be releasing it's own assessment of New Zealand’s fisheries, via the Best Fish Guide app, enabling New Zealanders to show leadership by making responsible choices at supermarkets, restaurants and fish and chip shops.