Future Options for the Department of Conservation in conserving New Zealands Marine Environment

Jim Nicolson, Conservation Policy Division, Department of Conservation

Responsibility for monitoring and managing NZ's marine environment is spread across a range of statutory agencies. The Department of Conservation's roles include: development and monitoring of the NZ coastal policy statement; protection of marine species including seabirds, marine mammals, marine reptiles and a small number of fish and coral species; other protected areas; research into fishing related impacts on marine protected species. Although many agencies are involved in the management of NZ's marine environment, little is known about the characteristics of this environment. Marine living resources are nevertheless harvested without knowing the effects of this harvest on many stocks or the ecosystems these stocks occupy. Also, other than in fisheries and marine transport, there is little regulation or restriction in the use of the marine environment and little in the way of protection applied to it. Aside from the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve, less than 1% of the area of NZ territorial waters is formally protected, compared with approximately 30% of NZ's terrestrial environment. There is no area based statutory measure available for use outside the 12 mile limit. Risks from a range of marine and land based activities on marine species and habitats are however becoming more widely known. Bycatch from fishing is known to adversely affect some marine protected species and some fishing methods are known to damage habitats. Land based activities are known to create habitat change in estuarine and coastal areas. The Department's policy direction is aimed at enhancing its conservation activities in the marine environment to manage these risks. This direction includes: development of better marine environment knowledge base; development of a comprehensive marine conservation strategy including a strategy for establishing a representative range of marine reserves; and development of collaborative arrangements for managing NZ' environment with other statutory and non statutory bodies with interests in this important part of NZ's natural heritage. The SeaViews Conference provides the Department with an excellent opportunity to discuss its intended policy direction with interested stakeholders.

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