I live on an island close to the sea. The opening lyrics of Jess Chambers memorable song Island which featured in our 2008 election campaign will ring true with many. Our coastline features heavily in our recreational opportunities. Many of us yearn for a sunny day at the beach under a deep blue sky or to visit with the octopus beneath the waves. In this instalment of our conservation week series we are going to take a look at what lies beneath.
New Zealand has a long history and association with the sea. Māori have a proud history of a respectful coexistence with the domain of Tangaroa. Rāhui were tools that restricted the harvest of kai moana, Tapu existed both around pollution and harmful harvesting methods. Unfortunately those initial ideals where compromised by an influx of Sealers then Whalers. The illusions of an unending resource for harvest and disposal was slowly but surely eroded. New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS) establish in 1986 was a world leader in using a market mechanism. While there are some aspects of the QMS that are good, these are often overshadowed by a lack of knowledge and an inability to apply the precautionary principle. The Orange Roughy Crash highlighted this with the successful appeal of a quota reduction challenged due to lack of evidence about the Orange Roughy population.
We face many challenges ahead with oil once again trending upward. The demand for exploration will increase. As has been seen in the Gulf of Mexico recently when the boundaries of exploration are pushed under a permissive regime, tragic consequences can result. I hear that many people down in Dunedin are all a fluster,eyeing up the possibilities of servicing contracts to the Great Southern Basin Exploration and seeing a much needed boost to local industry. Dunedin also reaps a large reward from tourism heavily based around eco-tourism on the Otago Peninsula, yet few consider the risk to this sector.
Climate change is already impacting on our oceans. Absorbtion of CO2 by our oceans has meant that the atmospheric concentration is not as high as it could be. Unfortunately the consequence of this absorption is an increase in the acidity of our oceans. This will impact on creatures throughout the food chain and put increased pressure on our already threatened marine ecosystems.
As we become more aware of the marine environment our ability to prevent both inadvertent, and deliberate damage increases. We have a golden opportunity to preserve some of our glorious marine heritage. While we do have many small marine reserves it would be great to think about expanding some of the protected areas. The reserves can serve multiple purposes. The primary one, of course, should be to preserve and protect valued habitat but we also shouldn’t overlook the great recreational opportunities that this would present.
Our sea and oceans policy lays out our framework for increased participation in marine conservation. Local communities, as well as recreational and small commercial fishers must be included in marine conservation initiatives, so that we can achieve long lasting solutions that will stand the test of time.