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Fiordland Should be a Marine Park

Published: Tue 10 Dec 2002 05:23 PM
Fiordland Should be a Marine Park
Forest and Bird is calling for the creation of a marine park for Fiordland, including marine national parks in Milford Sound and Preservation Inlet, a network of marine reserves and taiapure.
Forest and Bird has developed its Fiordland Marine Park proposal in response to a draft Integrated Management Strategy for Fiordland's Fisheries and Marine Environment, which suggests an overarching taiapure for Fiordland with a series of protected areas, and fishery controls. This strategy has been put forward by commercial and recreational fishers, iwi and tour operators represented on the Guardians of Fiordland's Fisheries and Marine Environment. They have invited public submissions by the 20th December.
Forest and Bird's Southern Field Officer, Sue Maturin, said the Guardian's proposal is exciting and an important step forward but it does not do justice to the international significance of Fiordland's unique marine biodiversity.
"Many people think that the Fiords are already protected as part of Fiordland National Park, but so far only two small areas are reserved, despite the IUCN recommending that the Fiords should be included in the Southwest New Zealand Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area in 1986."
"Fiordland is a global hot spot for black coral and each fiord contains unique marine communities and genetically distinct populations. Each fiord acts as an individual ecosystem as there is very little genetic exchange between them and there are even genetically distinct populations within each fiord."
"Fiordland's special ecology means that whole fiords need to be protected, and we are disappointed that the Guardians' proposal does not recommend even one complete fiord." Sue Maturin said.
It is especially important that representative areas of the entrances to the fiords are also protected, as these are the most productive habitats, especially for crayfish, paua, kina, and blue cod. These entrance populations provide much of the larvae for the inner fiord populations, and should be protected to help replenish the fish stocks of the inner fiords.
The fisheries in many of the fiords are seriously depleted. Today's crayfish populations are only 5% of what they were in the 1950's, and blue cod are almost gone from Doubtful Sound.
The Guardians' proposal recognises that the fish stocks are in need of rebuilding and they have proposed temporary closures for blue cod fishing in Milford and Doubtful Sounds, and most significantly they recommend banning commercial fishing through out the all the inner fiords.
Forest and Bird welcomes these proposals but says they do not protect enough of Fiordland's fragile marine habitats, nor do they adequately represent the full range of biodiversity found in Fiordland.
Although Fiordland has a huge coastline the area of diverse marine life is comparatively small, as it is restricted to a narrow 40m deep band around the perimeter of the fiords. In reality most of Fiordland's unique communities of black and red corals, and encrusting organisms are confined to an area roughly equivalent to the size of Bluff, or Akaroa Harbours or the intertidal mud flat area of Manukau Harbour. This small area combined with the fact that many of the species only grow a few centre meters a year and can live up to 300 years or more makes Fiordland's marine populations vulnerable to over exploitation, and damage.
Forest and Bird's marine park proposal is designed to take into account the special features of Fiordland, including significant areas of the 40m band habitat and ensure adequate representation of the full range of inner, mid and outer fiord habitat, as well as the exposed entrances and south coast. The Society also envisages a number of taiapure being established either adjacent to or beyond the protected areas.
Milford Sound and Preservation Inlet are suggested for Marine Park status, which will require a small amendment to the National Parks Act, to enable National Parks to extend into the marine area.
Milford's underwater scenery is just as dramatic as the protected famous Mitre Peak, and Preservation inlet is a distinctive, wild and remote fiord. Both deserve to be a marine National Park.
Sue Maturin says Fiordland is so unique and internationally significant that much of it should be protected. However the Society recognises the importance of Fiordland to iwi and fishers so we have suggested leaving whole fiords and much of the accessible Doubtful Sound open to controlled fishing.
For more information see http://www.forest-bird.org.nz/Marine/reserves/fiordlandmarinepark.pdf

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