INDEPENDENT NEWS

Kiwis Urged To Give Shane Jones ‘The Finger’

Published: Mon 20 May 2024 08:18 AM
New Zealanders are being called on to give Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones “the finger” in a cheeky new campaign that aims to dramatically boost marine protection in Aotearoa.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) New Zealand is today urging Kiwis to get behind its call for 30% of New Zealand’s ocean to be placed within Marine Protected Areas by 2030 – by “kicking up a stink” and sending the Minister a message he can’t ignore.
Taking the seemingly humble fish finger and turning it into a symbol of protest, the new campaign from WWF invites Kiwis to take a stand by giving the Minister 'the finger' until he commits to expanding marine protection.
Despite New Zealand committing in 2022 to the global target of ‘30 by 30’, less than one percent of our country’s ocean territory is safeguarded. This lack of protection puts us in joint ‘last place’ globally with Russia and China.
Our ocean’s health is in crisis, with pollution, rampant overfishing and the impacts of climate change pushing fragile marine habitats and species to the brink.
Marine Protected Areas – safe havens for marine life where extractive activities like fishing and mining are limited – are regarded as one of the best ways to protect and restore marine habitats and species, and to support our communities that rely on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods. But with only 0.04% of New Zealand’s ocean territory currently protected, time is rapidly running out.
WWF-New Zealand’s CEO, Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, says that Shane Jones – the self-styled “Apostle of Industry” – looks to be prioritising commercial interests over the health of our ocean, and Kiwis won’t stand for it.
“We know New Zealanders care deeply about our blue backyard. Many of us live by the coast, and feed our families or earn a living from the sea. But if we don’t do something to reverse its alarming decline, we face a very real future where snapper is a luxury of the past and our grandchildren never get to encounter a Hector’s dolphin in the wild.
“Shane Jones has been crystal clear that driving export-led economic growth is his number one priority, at whatever cost – even if that means pushing our threatened native species to extinction and plunging our ocean into a further state of decline,” she says.
“Because much of our ocean is out of sight, out of mind, Shane Jones thinks he can get away with turning a blind eye to the crisis we face – but I think Kiwis would be shocked if they knew just how poorly we are looking after our marine environment, and how increasingly out of step we’re becoming with the rest of the world.”
Just this year alone, Jones has scrapped plans for the vast Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which would have brought New Zealand significantly closer to the ‘30 by 30’ target and helped to protect one of the most precious and untouched places on earth.
He also slashed protections for the world’s rarest sea lion, took an axe to proposals to reduce destructive bottom trawling in the South Pacific, and signalled that he wants to review the roll-out of cameras on boats – a programme which is essential for helping us understand the threats to our native species and better manage our commercial fisheries.
Dr Kingdon-Bebb says that Jones’ track-record of siding with destructive industries like seabed mining and fossil fuel extraction over the health of our ocean warrants Kiwis giving him “the finger” and confronting him about his “fishy behaviour”.
She says that while the campaign is deliberately tongue-in-cheek, the issues are serious – and the stakes are high.
“With this campaign we’re poking a bit of fun at the issue, but behind it there’s a really serious message at play, because we are – quite literally – killing our ocean.
“I hope that if we can get the public on board, it will be a wake-up call for Shane Jones that Kiwis don’t want to see commercial fishing and seabed mining prioritised over the treasured native species and places that make us who we are.”
New Zealand has more seabirds than anywhere else in the world, yet shockingly 90% are now threatened or at risk of extinction – with accidental capture and death in fishing operations the main cause of their decline.
It’s also estimated that 22% of Aotearoa’s native marine mammals are at risk of extinction – with only around 50 of the iconic Māui dolphin now left in the wild.
Since 1970, some of our commercial fish stocks have declined by more than 80 percent, and places like the Hauraki Gulf/Tīkapa Moana are on the verge of ecological collapse. Scallop and crayfish populations are now functionally extinct in some parts of the Gulf.
WWF says that MPAs are not only essential for helping these habitats and species recover – but they also help build resilience to climate change and increase food security and financial security for our communities.
While MPAs often face resistance from the commercial fishing industry, scientific studies show that large-scale, offshore, highly-protected MPAs – such as the one proposed in the Kermadecs – actually benefit commercial fishers and positively contribute to food security.
Even inshore MPAs increase the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in an area and improve productivity in surrounding fisheries due to the ‘halo effect’, where the population of a particular species in an MPA becomes so abundant that it spills over into surrounding areas that can be targeted by recreational fishers. They can also be highly valuable assets for tourism operators.
Kiwis can get involved in the campaign at www.giveshanejonesthefinger.co.nz, where they can directly send Jones the digital fish finger in an email, asking him to implement New Zealand’s pledge to protect 30% of the ocean with Marine Protected Areas by 2030.
“Time is running out to protect and restore our declining marine environment, but Shane Jones seems more concerned with the short-term profits of resource developers than the long-term health of the ocean we all depend on,” says Dr Kingdon-Bebb.
“It’s time for Kiwis to take a stand with us and call out Shane Jones on his fishy behaviour. Together let’s send him a message he can’t ignore.”

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