Hauraki Gulf Marine Protected Areas expanded, but no action on dredging
Trawl fishing will be restricted and marine protected areas will be nearly tripled as part of a new plan to protect Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker and Acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall released the new strategy, Revitalize the Gulf – Government action on the Sea Change plan, Tuesday morning.
The changes include the creation of 18 new Marine Protected Areas.
Changes to fishing practices and catch parameters, including the restriction of trawl fishing to carefully selected ‘corridors’, will also be expected. implemented as part of the new strategy.
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The Hauraki Gulf stretches from Mangawhai, north of Auckland, to Waihi on the Coromandel Peninsula, and covers 1.2 million hectares of ocean.
Parker said the government was taking “immediate action” to build on the good work already done to restore the health of the Gulf.
The Gulf is one of the country’s busiest areas for boating and fishing, and is home to significant coastal fishing, Parker said.
“All of this activity, both on land and at sea, has put pressure on the Gulf, and we must take action to ensure that current and future generations can benefit from it.”
The package includes more environmental monitoring, an expanded protected species management program and a plan to work with mana whenua and local communities on coastal management.
The announcement comes after a panel of experts said the marine area will need at least 30% of its waters turned into reserves and better management of the fishing quotas in place in order to restore its seabed and almost barren reefs.
Revitalizing the Gulf strategy responds to a call to action launched in 2017 Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari Hauraki Gulf Marine space plan.
Hauraki Gulf Forum co-chair Nicola MacDonald said if implemented, the new marine protected areas and proposed changes would represent the most positive change for the Gulf in a generation.
“This is an important first step towards the forum’s ambition to have at least 30% marine protection to restore the mauri of Te Moananui-à-Toi, Tīkapa Moana,” she said.
But some areas remain at risk, and the forum said more ambition is needed to fully protect the marine park’s seabed from destructive fishing methods.
“The forum’s position is clear: bottom impact fishing methods such as dredging and trawling should be removed from the entire Marine Park,” said Co-Chair Pippa Coom.
“A healthy seabed underpins the entire ecosystem. “
University of Otago emeritus professor Liz Slooten said scientific evidence of severe environmental impacts in the Hauraki Gulf has been accumulating for decades.
“Fishing has an impact on fish populations and kelp beds, as well as populations of marine mammals and seabirds,” she said.
“Deaths in gillnets and trawls have a very serious impact on marine mammals, seabirds, sharks and other species. It’s great to see that the gulf will be better protected.
The 2020 State of our Gulf report, produced every three years, showed a collapsed ecosystem due to overfishing, invasive fishing practices, marine spills, and sediment and nutrient runoff, Thing previously reported.
Since 2000, snapper, tarakihi and crayfish have reached or fallen to levels requiring action to actively rebuild stocks. Populations of scallops, mussels, crayfish and pāua have also been declining for decades.
Greenpeace Aotearoa spokeswoman Jessica Desmond said it was heartening to see the government finally turn the tide on ocean protection.
“We know that bottom trawling is extremely damaging to the health and biodiversity of the oceans,” she said.
“It’s great to see that this practice will be limited in more areas of the Gulf to allow marine life to recover. “