by Gareth Hughes
Kiwis love our ocean. Oceans cover 70% of our planet and represent over 95% of the biosphere and in New Zealand our waters are particularly special.
You may not have noticed (I didn’t see anything in the papers about it) that last week a big conservation meeting wrapped up in Nagoya, Japan. The UN Convention on Biodiversity’s tenth meeting has received both bouquets and brickbats.
Delegates heard we are in the midst of a great extinction event, where species are dissapearing at a rate between 100 and possibly 10,000 times greater than the historical level. The biodiversity crisis is truly global requiring international solutions. We used to think the oceans were unlimited, and impossible for humans to fundamentally impact however climate change, ocean acidification, oil and mineral exploitation, whaling, overfishing and pollution are all taking their toll on our marine environment. A major recomendation from scientists is that some areas just need to be off limits to humans.
In Nagoya, under the agreed protocol, governments have committed to protecting 17 percent of land and 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020.
The 10% by 2020 marine protected area target sounds impressive but it’s similar to something we’ve heard before in NZ.10% by 2020? “Pawh” says NZ, “we’ve already got a 10% by 2010 target.”
So how are we doing to meet our commitment under the first UN biodiversity summit in 2002 to protect at least 10 per cent of New Zealand’s marine environment by 2010?
If you heard the NZ Government in Nagoya, you would hear, “great, almost there – 7% of ourTterritorial Sea is in marine reserve.” What they forgot to mention of course is that what’s counted isn’t just the Territorial Sea (out to 12 miles) but also the whole Exclusive Economic Zone so a total marine area of 415 million hectares, which is a less than ‘close’ to the target. In fact only 0.3% is in marine reserve.
Add in marine mammal sanctuaries and our marine protected area is a paltry 0.77% (a long way off from 10%).
With three months to go till our target deadline do we have much chance of meeting it? Not likely considering the Government placed a moratorium on marine reserves in the EEZ till 2013, last year stopped DoC from applying for marine reserves, and in Akaroa declined a marine reserve application, because of recreational fishing impacts.
Will this just be yet another aspirational target?