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Media release: Hauraki Gulf Forum votes to increase marine park protection

Media release

Hauraki Gulf Forum votes to increase marine park protection

The Hauraki Gulf Forum, the statutory body tasked with progressing integrated management of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, today recommended two significant goals for the important and much-loved marine park.

Consistent with the Forum’s strategic issues, the Forum voted to recommend two aspirational long-term goals for the 12,000 km2 Hauraki Gulf Marine Park:

That at least 20 per cent of the waters be protected
That restoration efforts establish 1000 km2 of shellfish-beds and reefs.
“Bold action is required to stem continued ecological decline below the waterline” – Forum Chairperson John Meeuwsen.

“At present only a tiny percentage, 0.3 per cent, of the Marine Park is covered by ‘no-take’ marine reserves and we need to dramatically lift our collective ambition.”

For full details, visit OurAuckland.

For further information, please contact Alex Rogers, Executive Officer – Hauraki Gulf Forum, eo@haurakigulfforum.org.nz , 021 191 8527 .

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Notes for editors

Dr Tom Trnski, Auckland Museum (marine protection) and Dr Simon Thrush, University of Auckland (shellfish restoration) can speak to the science behind those issues.
Forum Chairperson John Meeuwsen and Deputy Chairperson Moana Tamaariki-Pohe can speak on behalf of the Forum.
Two images accompany this release (image credit: Shaun Lee). The first shows the marine boundary of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. The second, taken in 2018 off Ponui Island in the Inner Hauraki Gulf, shows arm deep sediment on the sea floor.
· The best available science shows that about 30% of an area should be protected to support recovery and resilience of marine ecosystems – and ideally the highest form of protection: no-take marine reserves that are representative of the full range of habitats[1] [2]. Marine reserves in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, for example, were extended to 33% from less than 5% in 2004, and subsequent studies by the Australian Government (Australian Institute of Marine Science) have now documented a broad range of benefits from this bold action, including increasing fish stocks, and economic benefits from increased tourism. Studies have also shown how public support for no-take marine reserves, including from the fishing community, which can start out at around 50 – 50, is high and increased with the age of the reserve, as all communities see the benefits from marine protection[3].

· Closer to home, studies have also demonstrated the benefits of the Goat Island Marine Reserve – for example, its role as a thriving snapper nursery for the wider region [4] – but also its limitations, its small area doesn’t protect mobile animals that do not respect boundaries on a map and get caught the moment they stray outside the reserve.

Who are the members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum?

The 21-member Hauraki Gulf Forum includes representatives of the Ministers of Conservation, Fisheries and Māori Development, representatives of the Tangata Whenua of Tīkapa Moana nominated by the Minister of Conservation, and elected representatives of Auckland Council (including the Aotea Great Barrier and Waiheke Local Boards), Waikato Regional Council, Thames-Coromandel District Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, Hauraki District Council and Waikato District Council. The Forum is staffed by an Executive Officer, with additional support from Auckland Council.

How much of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is protected at present?

A tiny 0.3 % is currently in no-take marine reserves, split among six different small sites including the most well-known – Goat Island. Marine species know no boundaries, and small reserves deliver limited benefits beyond proving the concept and increased tourism – because the fish, crayfish and other species that spawn in the reserve get caught the moment they wander out past the invisible boundary. There are also larger areas of the Marine Park with other forms of protection, such as protections from certain fishing methods.

How much of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is covered by shellfish-beds and reefs?

We are not sure exactly, but it is a shadow of its former self having been thoroughly dredged and exploited. Records suggest up to 1500sqkm of shellfish-beds and reefs once called the Marine Park home. It would be a tiny fraction of that at present.

What impact does a recommendation from the Forum have?

The Forum’s recommendations are not binding, but they do carry political weight. It will be up to the Forum’s members, and other stakeholders, to act on the recommendation.

What types of marine protection are there?

There are many ways to protect marine areas. It ranges from no-take marine reserves under the Marine Reserves Act, to fishing controls under the Fisheries Act, Mātauranga Māori including dynamic rahui, and other measures which protect marine ecosystems such as cutting sedimentation, nutrients, plastics and other harmful substances from flowing into the Marine Park.

For marine ecosystems to recover, the stronger the protection the better.

How does this relate to Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari?

The Sea Change Marine Spatial Plan was produced in 2016 and covers both issues in addition to many others. Aspects of the plan are already being implemented by local government, and central government has proposed establishing a Ministerial Advisory Committee to provide advice on aspects it could take forward. The Forum’s goals have taken into account the Sea Change Plan.

Does marine protection work?

In 2004 the no-take marine reserve areas within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia were extended from 5% to 33%. 15 years later studies conclusively show the broad based benefits from that additional protection. Closer to home, studies have also shown the benefits of marine protection for example with Goat Island. Though in that case, the reserve is so small that its impact is limited.

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