History in the making – largest proposed marine network

Department of Conservation —  05/03/2020

The unique diversity of life in New Zealand waters is a taonga that belongs to us all – and Seaweek is a great time to remind ourselves of that! 

At DOC we’re proud to be a part of one of the most significant Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network proposals New Zealand has ever had. A network that is one-step closer to reality now that consultation has been released (get your submission in before 17 April).

Why is this proposal so important?

The south-east coast of the South Island stands out as being the only large coastal region in New Zealand without any marine protected areas… yet!

The proposed network includes:

• Six marine reserves (where marine life would be fully protected and fishing banned)

• Five marine protected areas (which would impose a range of restrictions to fishing)

• One kelp protection area (where commercial harvest of bladder kelp would be prohibited)

Not only that, but coastal areas are under pressure globally from the effects of human activities. New Zealand has made an international commitment to increase our country’s marine protected areas by 2020.

The proposed network would increase the area covered by MPAs in the southern South Island bioregion (which the south-east forms part) from 0.47% to 6%. All helping to ensure our coastal areas and waters are there for future generations to enjoy. 

What about climate change?

Establishing MPA networks is critical to maintaining the resilience of our marine ecosystems to climate change and other pressures. See our blog Marine climate change for more information on how MPAs can help combat climate change.  

Toroa/northern royal albatross. 📷: John Barkla

So, tell me more about this proposed network…

The proposed network covers almost 1,300km2 between Timaru and Southland – an area that is home to some of our most endangered species such as hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin, toroa/northern royal albatross, and rāpoka/New Zealand sea lion.

A collaborative group called the South-East Marine Protection Forum was established in 2014 to provide recommendations on a network of MPAs to the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation. Members of the Forum included representatives from Kāi Tahu as manawhenua; commercial and recreational fishers; the tourism, science and environmental sectors; and the broader community. 

In late 2016, the Forum consulted widely with the public, industry and stakeholders on 20 sites for possible inclusion in the network. More than 2800 submissions were received – proving that many people are passionate about the sea!

In 2018 the Forum delivered two alternate recommendations to Ministers, and in the following year Ministers announced they would progress Network 1 – the network that is now being consulted on.

Long Point from Papatowai. 📷: Fergus Sutherland

What next? When will it be in place?

The establishment of MPAs takes time due to the number of parties who have a stake – from the manawhenua to recreational and commercial users of the sea and coastline. They all need to be heard and their feedback taken on board.

But, it can be done! The following collaborative processes have resulted in marine protection being implemented in their areas:

• The Subantarctic Regional Marine Protection Planning Forum – three Marine Reserves

• The West Coast Marine Protection Forum – five Marine Reserves and three marine protected areas.

Both processes experienced significant positive input from their wider communities – so don’t forget to get your submission in on the proposed network by April 17.

Last but not least – Happy Seaweek! If you would like to participate in some of the activities happening across the country – check out what’s on in your region.

One response to History in the making – largest proposed marine network

    Tanya Ashken 05/03/2020 at 6:39 pm

    Don’t let NZ First ruin the establishment of this truly splendid idea. They stopped the Kermadec sanctuary going ahead.