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New protections and restrictions in the Hauraki Gulf – Expert Reaction

The government has announced 18 new protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, along with limiting trawl fishing to carefully selected corridors, in a bid to restore the health of the area.

The strategy is in response to the call for action made by the 2017 Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan (the Sea Change Plan).

The SMC asked experts to comment on the news.

Professor Emeritus Liz Slooten, University of Otago, comments:

“It’s great to see the Hauraki Gulf will be better protected. Scientific evidence of serious environmental impacts in the Gulf has been mounting over the last few decades. Fishing is impacting fish populations and kelp beds, as well as marine mammal and seabird populations. There have been several sightings of Hector’s dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf over the years. It is not yet clear if these are the endangered Hector’s dolphin or the critically endangered Māui dolphin subspecies – these dolphins are found nowhere else in the World.

“Deaths in gillnets and trawling are a very serious impact on marine mammals, seabirds, sharks and other species. The timing couldn’t be better, as today is also the day that the International Whaling Commission has released its Scientific Committee Report. This is the 10th year in which the International Whaling Commission has urged New Zealand to fully protect the Māui dolphin. Over the years, the International Whaling Commission recommendation has increased from ‘concern’ to ‘grave concern’. Right now, the catch of just one Māui dolphin in a fishing net could lead to extinction.

“Despite changes made by the Minister for Primary Industries last year, dolphin protection still falls well short of the International Whaling Commission recommendation, which continues to call for a ban on both of these fishing methods out to 20 nautical miles offshore. Other fishing methods such as fish traps and hook and line methods are dolphin-safe and could continue to be used. The International Whaling Commission is also carrying out a detailed peer-review of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ model that was used to advise the Minister on dolphin protection.

“In the Hauraki Gulf, as elsewhere in New Zealand waters, making the transition to more selective (dolphin- and seabird-safe) fishing methods will be a lifeline to endangered species, fish stocks and the long-term future of the fishing industry itself.”

No conflict of interest

*(UPDATE 1/7/2021) NB: The author asserts that in the 2019 Scientific Committee report, the IWC recommendation on Māui dolphin protection remains in place until the Scientific Committee has carried out a thorough peer-review of MPI’s risk assessment and that the most recent IWC Scientific Committee report confirms this.

Dr Richard O’Driscoll, Chief Scientist Fisheries – NIWA, comments:

“We welcome this strategy as making progress towards ecosystem-based management within the wider Hauraki Gulf area.

“Because of its proximity to New Zealand’s largest population in Auckland, the Gulf has been affected by a range of pressures including fishing, sedimentation, pollution, aquaculture, and urban development. This makes restoring the Gulf challenging, but if we can successfully deliver in this area, then we might also apply similar strategies in other areas of New Zealand.

“The key fisheries objective is to develop and implement ‘an area-based fisheries plan for customary, commercial, and recreational fisheries’.

“It is vital that this fisheries plan does not just consider fisheries in isolation, but rather within a ‘fisheries ecosystem plan’ that also incorporates the other eight elements such as habitat restoration, marine protection, protected species, and Ahu Moana. Everything is interconnected – fisheries impact the ecosystem, but changes in the ecosystem also impact fisheries.

“NIWA looks forward to supporting the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan Advisory Group in developing the area-based fisheries plan. As well as informing the development of the plan, our existing, current, and future research in the Hauraki Gulf may also provide the basis for ongoing monitoring and management.”

Conflict of interest statement: NIWA carries out fisheries research work under contract to the New Zealand government (Fisheries New Zealand, Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, Department of Conservation), local government, and for the fishing industry.

Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine, University of Auckland, Marine Biologist, comments:

“The announcement by the Ministers is a positive step forward to ensure the mauri of the Gulf is restored. Addressing major issues around sedimentation, all fishing effort and pollution will require action by all those who live near the Gulf. Mana whenua are well placed to be at the forefront of this discussion already evidenced by an increasing number of rāhui in response to degraded ecosystems.

“The Hauraki Gulf is a global hotspot for seabirds and is important habitat for many species of cetacean, sharks, and rays. These species are under stress with shifts in prey availability linked to environmental changes, in particular with anomalously warm years. We need to restore ecosystem function to ensure these large marine animals have a future in the Gulf and that is going to require substantial change in how we view our relationship with these waters.”

Conflict of interest statement: “I provided advice to the Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari committee.”

Dr Darren Parsons, NIWA programme leader – Fisheries & Ecosystems, comments:

“This is a game changer. Ecosystem-based management is not a new concept, but progress towards it has been limited. The government’s response to Sea Change sets a clear path for what a more holistic and inclusive management approach will look like.”

Conflict of interest statement: NIWA carries out fisheries research work under contract to the New Zealand government (Fisheries New Zealand, Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, Department of Conservation), local government, and for the fishing industry.

Dr Julie Hall, Director of Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge, comments:

“I’m pleased to see that the strategy recognises the critical role of mana whenua, and the need for holistic, ecosystem-based approaches to marine management. It also rightly notes that there are many and varied activities – on both land and sea – that affect marine ecosystem health, and therefore the economic, ecological, cultural and social values that people hold. Coasts and oceans are a central part of New Zealanders’ lives and identities, so improving marine management benefits us all.

“We’re looking forward to working with FNZ and DOC on the case study referenced in the strategy, to co-develop the fisheries indicators and monitoring framework.”

No conflict of interest

Dr Mark Morrison, Marine ecologist, NIWA Auckland, comments:

“With the release of the government’s response to the Hauraki Gulf Sea Change Plan, it is great to see that so many of the plan’s themes and priorities will be acted on.

“It is fantastic to see that a new holistic ecosystem-based approach will be enacted, and that habitats and their ecological functions are a central part of the plan. That includes the unique knowledge inputs of Mana Whenua who have relied on and lived on and around the Gulf for close to a millennium, and all the different parts of society that so value the Gulf and all that it offers and holds.

“Fisheries as a major activity in the Gulf (commercial, recreational, and customary) get a lot of attention in this plan, and the new approaches, knowledge, and management ways of doing things that will be developed will fundamentally help not only the Gulf but all of New Zealand progress to a healthier marine ecosystem. It is wonderful to see biogenic (living) habitats such as sponges, seagrass, horse and green-lipped mussels, and others get the detailed attention they need, as key building blocks in having a highly functional and productive ecosystem.”

Conflict of interest statement: NIWA carries out fisheries research work under contract to the New Zealand government (Fisheries New Zealand, Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, Department of Conservation), local government, and for the fishing industry. Dr Mark Morrison acted in a technical science liaison role for the Sea Change Marine Spatial Plan process.

Dr Jenny Hillman, Research Fellow, University of Auckland, comments:

“I am encouraged by the statement this morning with its goals to address the challenges the Hauraki Gulf is currently increasingly facing, and has been facing for a long time. The content aligns with the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which calls to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide, and is a good start to achieving the ambitious goals set out by the Hauraki Gulf Forum.

“Whole ecosystem care is complex and requires collective input and wisdom and buy-in from all stakeholders involved, but also needs strong management in terms of policy and regulation to ensure that the goals are met. It is especially encouraging to see the goal of more marine protection and active restoration as this will be crucial to achieving the collective goal of a healthier Gulf ecosystem. However, considering land-based impacts is critical, with sedimentation being the biggest threat, before we can ensure a healthy marine world – as the land-to-sea connection is so strong.”

No conflict of interest

Professor Karen Stockin, Professor in Marine Ecology, Massey University, comments:

“I warmly welcome the government’s announcement around the protective measures being created within the Hauraki Gulf. We have seen a marked difference in how marine mammals use the gulf over the past decade, including reduced feeding. As such its welcome news to hear MPAs, restricting trawl fishing, and improved monitoring in the Hauraki Gulf moving forward.”

No conflict of interest