Myths and fallacies exposed, part 8

dissected by Dr J Floor Anthoni (2004)
www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/cons/myths8.htm
(text in blue is ours)
The ways DoC went about establishing the Great Barrier's east coast marine reserve has antagonised so many people that the organisation Option4 rapidly gained strength and phenomenal support. Option4 stands for New Zealanders' first right to the fish in their seas. The creation of marine reserves is thus seen as an intrusion, a theft of birthrights, for which undeniably strong reasons must exist, but such reasons have not eventuated. Thus the fight of Option4 against DoC must be seen as one born from either misunderstanding, or lack of consultation, or plainly deceit by DoC. In this document DoC aims to dispel Option4's misgivings, but fails. Read with care to make up your own mind. Note that these two documents were not forwarded to Option4. Instead they were discovered by accident.

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For comments, suggestions and improvements, e-mail Floor Anthoni
-- Seafriends home -- conservation index -- war index -- Rev 20040219, [still under construction]

DoCís Answers to Questions raised by option4
December 22 2003

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Regional-Info/002~Auckland/006~Whats-New/Great-Barrier-Island-Marine-Reserve-Proposal/Answers-To-Questions-Raised-By-Option4.asp
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Conservation/Marine-and-Coastal/Marine-Reserves/400~Aotea-(Great-Barrier)-Marine-reserve-application/003~DOC-response-GBI-marine-reserve-proposal-submission-issues.asp

Option4 provided a questionnaire about the GBI marine reserve proposal on its website.  About one-third of the comments that the Department of Conservation (DOC) received on the proposal were on the Option4 questionnaire.

In addition to the fields provided by DOC on its questionnaire, the Option4 form contained a number of additional questions formulated by that group.  The questions are listed below, with a response from DOC (or download as a PDF in links box).

It was necessary for Option4 to add more questions to DoC's form because DoC's questions were loaded to solicit a favourable response. For instance, rather than asking 'Do you support this proposal?', DoC's question was vague: 'Do you support the principle of a marine reserve somewhere on the north-east coast of Great Barrier?'. A YES answer was then interpreted as support for the proposal. Such misrepresentation has offended many. See the official submission form. In this article, the lines printed bold are Option4's questions, followed by DoC's answers in black and our dissection in blue.
1. Do you believe that a co-ordinated approach to marine protection is required before this marine reserve proposal (if it receives support from the public) goes forward as an application?
Government policy, as outlined in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000, supports a strategy for establishing a network of areas that protect marine biodiversity.  Auckland Conservancy is currently working on a strategy which aims to identify a network of areas that protect marine biodiversity in the Hauraki Gulf.  It is envisaged that key stakeholders and the wider community will have input into the decision-making processes for this strategy.
Instead of giving good reasons, time and again DoC hides behind the Biodiversity Strategy 2000, ignoring the fact that Option4 and others seriously question the validity of this strategy. Furthermore notice the word currently. If it weren't for the constant pressure from Option4, DoC would still not be looking at an integrated strategy, creating marine reserves here and there in a fragmented, piece-meal manner. But even so, a truly integrated approach looks at the entire situation from a wide angle, taking into account existing conservation measures such as trawler bans, de-facto marine reserves and locally managed marine parks. The tragedy of DoC is that it has no mandate to consider such options. Instead it wields its one and only blunt tool: complete and permanent closure.
However, such an approach may take some time.  For example, a strategic approach to marine protection that was undertaken in Victoria, Australia took over ten years to complete and implement.  In the absence of a strategic approach, DOC must continue to follow government policy and work towards the target of protecting ten percent of New Zealandís marine environment by 2010.
Again reference to the Biodiversity Strategy, for better or for worse. The point is that there exists no compelling reason for haste. Why do it wrong now when we can do it right tomorrow? Why, we may ask, did DoC not follow Victoria's example ten years ago? Furthermore, the Marine Reserves Act spells out very clearly that marine reserves are for scientific study, not for protecting biodiversity.
The proposed GBI marine reserve contains habitats not currently represented in marine protected areas in New Zealand.  It is therefore likely that the north-east coast of GBI would fit into a network of marine protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf.
Is the certainty of likely good enough to cast a mistake in concrete? Reader please notice how the network idea has reached magical proportions, whereas no research to-date has shown that it has real value. Much ado is also made of a tiny estuary inside the proposed marine reserve, which is too small to function ecologically as one or to have a measurable influence on the surrounding area. Much ado is also made of deep reef areas which could be protected by a simple trawler ban.


2. Are you concerned that DOC has no intention of arranging public meetings in Auckland to consult with public?
DOC arranged a number of meetings about the Great Barrier Island marine reserve proposal, including two public meetings held in Devonport on 9 July 2003 and Auckland Central on 15 July 2003.

Pressured by Option4, and smelling defeat, DoC decided to hold two 'opt-in' meetings that objectors (or supporters) could attend. Rather than being public meetings where the public is in the majority, these meetings were more like third degree inquisitions where a lone objector was forced to face a majority of DoC and Conservation Authority staff. In such meetings one does not have witnesses and one cannot complain about what was said and how one was treated. The fact remains that no public meetings were held to help the vast majority of users of the proposed area, Auckland boaties and fishermen, to vent their concerns.
 
Here is a barrister's personal experience of one of the Opt-in meetings:
"I attended one of DOC's drop in meetings at the Marine Rescue Centre last year.  I asked whether it would be possible to create a reserve but allow recreational fishing on a limited basis. Their answer was no.  I asked whether DOC had studied the impact of recreational fishing on the proposed reserve area.  Their answer was no because it is not important.  I then asked if the impact of recreational fishing is not important then why ban it.  Their answer was they wanted to return the area to the way it was before people arrived.  I asked them what way was that.  Their answer was they need to put the reserve in place to return it back to the way it was.  I then suggested that allowing some recreational fishing would not prevent them from achieving that objective. They disagreed."

Do you think hat opt-in meetings as held by DoC are acceptable forms of consultation?


3. Have DOC advertised the process and distributed brochures to your satisfaction?  Is their process adequate?
Most marine reserve proposals involve both pre-statutory consultation (occurs before a formal application is made) and statutory consultation (occurs after a formal application has been made).

Pre-statutory consultation, including the production and release of a discussion document or similar and seeking comments on it, is not required under the Marine Reserves Act 1971.  There is no process specified under that Act for pre-statutory consultation.  However, experience has demonstrated that the pre-statutory consultation assists in deciding whether to proceed with a statutory marine reserve application and if so, what form the proposal might take.  The pre-statutory consultation stage does not represent a formal application, which may or may not come at a later stage.

True. The MRA71 does not spell out preconsultation, however, DoC's own manual does. See the process flowchart, supplied by DoC. Note very carefully the words whether to proceed, since the flowchart spells out clearly to abandon the project in the face of overwhelming adverse public reaction. Yet DoC keeps pushing on, where it should have backed off indefinitely. Game over! Continuing amounts to harassment.
Statutory consultation occurs after a formal marine reserve application has been notified under the Marine Reserves Act 1971.  The notification of a marine reserve application and consultation must follow the requirements of the section 5 of the Act.

DOC is currently undertaking pre-statutory consultation about the Great Barrier Island marine reserve proposal.  A proposal document, ďA Marine Reserve for Great Barrier Island? Ė Your chance to have a say, and questionnaire was released in March 2003.  Read this document and our comments.

Approximately 4,500 proposal documents and questionnaires were distributed to 180 organisations, groups and clubs and approximately 600 individuals.  In addition, 6,500 copies were provided for distribution in the NZ Professional Skipper and New Horizons magazines.

Pressured by an unrealistic deadline, Option4 created an electronic submission form which was highly appreciated. It also duplicated the proposal document on its web site. Clubs who received submission forms still had to mail these out at own cost.
Information about the proposal was also available on the departmentís website, at the departmentís offices in Auckland, Warkworth and GBI and its Auckland Visitors Centre.  Articles appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the NZ Herald, regional Auckland papers, Dominion-Post, Barrier Bulletin, Dive NZ, and Boating NZ.  Items also appeared on the following television programmes: Breakfast, TV One News and TV 3 News.
Unfortunately, the version of the proposal on DoC's web site was Internet-unfriendly, making documents hard to find while requiring unacceptably long download times. The point is that we hope DoC has learnt a lesson, and that good consultation is precisely what it says. It also means listening. It includes consulting with people who use the area, rather than solely with those who live there.
4. What is so unique that it/they require the complete protection of a no take marine reserve in perpetuity?
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 does not specify that an area must be unique to qualify for protection under a marine reserve.

Section 3 of the Marine Reserves Act states that the purpose of the act is to preserve, as marine reserves for the scientific study of marine life, areas of New Zealand that contain underwater scenery, natural features or marine life, of such distinctive quality, or so typical, or beautiful, or unique, that their continued preservation is in the national interest.

There is indeed an anomaly in this part of the RMA, because the words unique and typical are mutually exclusive, and taken together, unique or typical means any.
Some of the marine habitats on the north-east coast of Great Barrier, such as the deep reefs which contain rare black coral and unusual sponges, are both beautiful and distinctive.  The Whangapoua Estuary is distinctive because it is one of the most undisturbed and unmodified estuaries in northern New Zealand.  Habitats such as the inshore and offshore sediment areas on the north-east coast of Great Barrier Island are typical.
It is sad that marine scientists employed or contracted by DoC have not been able to recognise the massive environmental degradation that has occurred in the designated area, and this despite their many surveys. Even their remotely controlled camera survey of the deep reefs, while showing black coral, sponges and other sessile filterfeeders, also clearly showed how much these were affected by sediment, bearing all the symptoms of serious degradation. It no longer makes sense to protect such depleted habitats by area closure since this does not take the threat of degradation away. Only by saving the land can we save the sea!
Most marine reserves are usually established in perpetuity.  Studies at Leigh Marine Reserve, which is New Zealandís oldest, have shown continuing recovery towards the natural state even 25 years after the marine reserveís establishment.  The benefits of the reserve increase over time so there is little point in squandering the benefits by opening the area to fishing.
DoC refers here to the snapper-urchin-kelp hypothesis as propounded by Babcock/Shears, but this hypothesis is highly questionable, not supported by the researchers' own experiments and not duplicated elsewhere (see science exposed). The reality is that even the Leigh Marine Reserve is degrading precipitously, many species absent, while researchers have done no evaluation of this at all. In 1998 the crayfish fled from mud entering the reserve. This reserve is not at all continuing recovery to the natural state! We wonder why DoC keeps using this argument. Are they really THAT blind?


5. Why have de-facto marine reserves not been studied or proposed as marine reserves?
Note: this question has been answered on the assumption that the term ďde-facto marine reserveĒ refers to areas around New Zealand that are closed to fishing and/or anchoring such as cable protection zones.  Correct.

Approximately 165,000 hectares (0.03% of New Zealandís Exclusive Economic Zone) is made up of cable/pipeline areas that are closed to fishing.  Cable protection zones are not established for protecting marine biodiversity, but may have the effect of doing so.  If enforced properly, cable protection zones can prevent most activity occurring that may threaten biodiversity values, except for cable laying and maintenance.

All cable protection zones are located in the territorial seas around NZ, an area 11x the size of all mainland marine reserves together which amount to a mere 15,000ha! Add to this an almost equal area in ammunition dumps, and the de-facto protected area becomes 20x. It is false to relate this area to the total EEZ, which covers 430Mha, as opposed to that of the territorial sea of 16Mha. Thus the de-facto reserves make up a total of 2% of the territorial sea. More to the point, these are areas that have enjoyed continuous protection for over 40 years! Surely one wishes to promote these before all others? Why is DoC not doing this? Why have they not been studied in the past?
DOC has contracted the University of Auckland to undertake some research to increase the understanding of what conservation outcomes may accrue from areas with partial protection or other areas where fishing is prohibited.
Our nagging has had some result! It is sad that our prodding was necessary before scientists condescended to look.
Areas that will be studied are Taranakiís Nga Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area and the Hauraki Gulf Cable Protection Zone in Auckland. NIWA has conducted research on the effects on the benthos (flora and fauna of the sea bottom) of the closed trawling and dredging areas in the Hauraki Gulf.

There is no reason why some cable protection areas cannot be proposed as marine reserves.  However, they may already effectively protect marine biodiversity.

The point that fishermen make is that these areas should be counted as such and included in the overarching strategic approach. Their position is firmly: look at the whole and let us be part of all decisions, before these are sprung upon us.
6. Why is fishing the ONLY threat?
Fishing is not the only threat.  New Zealandís marine environment faces a number of other threats, including: sediment and nutrient runoff, land and sea-based pollution, introduced marine pests, coastal development etc.

However, fishing does have a major impact on the marine environment:


7. What scientific study can be undertaken in a marine reserve that cannot be undertaken whilst fishing continues?
Marine reserves provide an opportunity to study natural, undisturbed marine ecosystems.  Scientific study looking at things like the size, abundance and behaviour of fish with the impact of fishing removed is undertaken in some of New Zealandís marine reserves and this research can obviously not take place whilst fishing continues.

Sadly, this research is politically motivated to prove that marine reserves work. It has been counter-productive, now that scientists themselves are admitting that research into the effects of marine reserves has been hopelessly inadequate (See Myths6/MPAnews48). We concur. Study degradation instead! Only by saving the land can we save the sea!
Scientific study in marine reserves contributes to knowledge of natural and/or recovered marine ecosystems.  For example, study in marine reserves can: Notice the word can rather than will or have


8. How does DOC intend to address displaced fishing effort and the consequential decline in fishing success in the remaining fishing grounds?
Effort displacement will be partially addressed by locating any new marine reserves in sites so the impact on existing patterns of use will be as little as possible.

If New Zealand achieves the ten percent marine protected area target that has been set by the Government in the NZ Biodiversity Strategy 2000, there will still be 90 percent of New Zealandís marine environment available for fishing.

The most important question, will these marine reserves work and deliver on their expectations, has not been addressed. We have 16-17 coastal marine reserves and nearly all are degrading badly. No evaluation has been done as to their efficacy and whether they get better over time than worse and whether they do protect biodiversity. We have no proof that coastal marine reserves are working, but we have observational evidence that they are NOT. Yet DoC refuses to evaluate all existing ones. Why should we repeat past mistakes? Why should we steal the right of others for no benefit in return? Why should we invoke real costs of over $100M annually and 500 people on the dole, for no measurable benefit in return?


9. How do marine reserves contribute to improved fishing success?  Where is the evidence of those benefits?
The purpose of marine reserves is not fisheries management, or to improve fishing success (see purpose of Marine Reserves Act 1971 in answer to question 4).  True. Neither is it for protecting biodiversity.

Research shows that inside marine reserves species such as snapper and rock lobster are present in greater numbers and are larger.  However, there is no conclusive evidence that shows marine reserves contribute to improved fishing success outside reserves. True.

It is possible that there are benefits that accrue to fishing and fisheries industries from marine reserves but these have yet to be demonstrated conclusively.  However, what we do know is:


10. What are the fisheries benefits that arise from the declaration of a marine reserve?  Where is the evidence of those benefits?
See answer to question 9.

11. What cost/benefit analysis has been done to uphold the claims of economic benefits from tourism etc?
The following research has been undertaken to determine the socio-economic implications of establishing marine reserves including:


Auckland Conservancy undertakes visitor surveys of Leigh marine reserve.  The questions that are asked include: the activities visitors undertook, visitor enjoyment/satisfaction of their visit, whether visitors understood the rules of marine reserves, age and nationality details, and how much money visitors spent on their visit (including petrol, food, equipment hire etc). Where are these results?

DOC is currently undertaking a social science research project to investigate what some communities think about the creation of a marine reserve prior to its gazettal and how they viewed its establishment after.  The project will also examine any other benefits (aside from biodiversity) that arise through the creation of a marine reserve (i.e. economic benefits). When will DoC examine the actual biodiversity 'benefits'?

12. Where else in NZ other than Leigh do marine reserves foster an eco-tourism economy?
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 does not require marine reserves to be established to provide for eco-tourism.  The Act states that the public are to have right of entry into marine reserves and some of New Zealandís marine reserves attract people and, as a result, eco-tourism operators have established (eg, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, Leigh Marine Reserve, Hahei Marine Reserve).

Eco-tourism can be expected in those reserves that have clear water (diving, glassbottom boat) and are easily accessible (schools). Very few of our reserves satisfy these criteria.


13.  Are the Leigh and Poor Knights examples supported by any proper analysis, and how widely spread are the eco-tourism benefits in Leigh and Tutukaka
Please see answer to question 11.


DoCís Response to Issues Raised in Submissions
22 December 2003

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Regional-Info/002~Auckland/006~Whats-New/Great-Barrier-Island-Marine-Reserve-Proposal/DOC-response-GBI-marine-reserve-proposal-submission-issues.asp
http://www.doc.govt.nz/Conservation/Marine-and-Coastal/Marine-Reserves/400~Aotea-(Great-Barrier)-Marine-reserve-application/004~Answers-To-Questions-Raised-By-Option4.asp

The following list identifies the main issues (in bold) raised by those who objected outright or with qualifications to the Great Barrier Island (GBI) marine reserve proposal.  The issues listed are those most commonly raised i.e. more than 15 times each.

DOC would like to provide submitters and other interested people with the following information in response to the issues that have been raised (or download as a PDF in links box).  The department is carefully considering the concerns raised by submitters.

1. Marine reserves take away the rights of recreational fishers to fish.
Recreational fishers have a common law access right to New Zealand fisheries.  However, this right does not guarantee amateur fishers unrestricted access to all waters.  Statutory law prohibits fishing in some areas e.g. the Submarine Cables and Protection Act 1996 prevents fishing in some cable protection zones and the Fisheries Act 1996 is sometimes used to close some areas to fishing.

Too much of the freedoms of New Zealanders has been whittled away by laws that do not deliver.
The fisheries within New Zealandís 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are a public resource, the common property of all New Zealanders, with the Government holding management rights over them. The Government has the responsibility to look after this countryís waters and fisheries and make decisions about their management.

Where the Government believes areas must be free of fishing to protect marine plants and animals, to underpin sustainable fisheries management or to provide for scientific study, then the Government has the power, and the responsibility, to close areas to fishing.

Note the careful use of the word believe. No scientific evidence defends NZ's marine biodiversity strategy which believes that marine reserves provide the only way to protect marine biodiversity. Fishermen and the NZ public are questioning the validity of this belief and the urgency behind it.
When the Government wants to close areas to fishing, it also has the responsibility to provide scientific evidence for the need to do so. It also needs to consider alternatives and the cost to the taxpayer and future generations. This has not been done.


2. Because of inclement weather, the north-east coast of GBI is not over-fished and is therefore self-protecting.  Fish do not need protecting as they are not at risk.
The purpose of the Marine Reserves Act 1971 is to preserve, as marine reserves for the scientific study of marine life, areas of New Zealand that contain underwater scenery, natural features or marine life, of such distinctive quality, or so typical, or beautiful, or unique, that their continued preservation is in the national interest.

Notice the purpose of marine reserves for the scientific study of marine life. It should be questioned why we need 10% of the territorial sea for this purpose, or 1,600,000ha or 3000 reserves the size of the Goat Island marine reserve of about 500ha. DoC is clearly awaiting the passing of the new marine reserves bill, now before parliament. This changes the purpose for marine reserves to that of protecting biodiversity and habitats. It is therefore premature for DoC to push ahead with marine reserves before this bill is enacted. It may fail.
The MR Act does not require proposed marine reserve areas to be heavily fished or, conversely, not fished at all.  In addition, the purpose of the MR Act is not to protect fish.
There is absolutely no valid reason to protect 52,000ha of GBI marine reserve for scientific study. This area is equally inaccessible to scientists as it is to fishermen.
It may well be that few people currently use the north-east coast of Great Barrier Island for recreational fishing.  However, over time, it is likely that more people will use the area as the population of Auckland and other regions adjacent to the proposed reserve grow.
More affluence + more people = more boats = more fishing. This sounds reasonable, but the fact is that the total take is controlled by bag limits and Total Allowable Catch limits. As more people use the sea for fishing, their daily take goes down accordingly. As more of the sea is locked up, the daily take must come down too.


3. Greater restrictions should be placed on commercial fishing, or commercial fishing should be banned.
The Ministry of Fisheries is the Government agency responsible for the conservation and management of fisheries in this country.  The Ministry manages commercial fishing in New Zealand under the Quota Management System (QMS).

The MRA1971 is a dead end and it is wrong for DoC to manage areas of the sea when the Ministry of Fisheries holds all other trump cards for the preservation of our seas. Within the Fisheries Act, all options and alternatives can be considered, whereas DoC can wield only one sledge hammer, that of total closure forever, and only for one reason, that of doing research.
It is true that commercial fishing has a significant impact on New Zealandís fisheries.  However, fishing is a popular recreational activity for as many as one in five New Zealanders.  Each year thousands of New Zealanders go fishing and take large numbers of finfish, rock lobsters and shellfish.  These quantities, from a very wide range of species, can seriously affect local fisheries (Source: Ministry of Fisheries website). True, but there is wide consultation and discussion on how to do things better.

4. Marine reserves donít work - where is the scientific evidence of the benefits of marine reserves?
Scientific research in marine reserves shows that marine reserves play important roles in:


There have been many scientific studies undertaken to determine the benefits and effects of marine reserves, both in New Zealand and overseas.  Some of the results are outlined below.

The number of legal-sized snapper in the Leigh marine reserve in 2003 was 28 times greater than outside the reserve (Source: University of Auckland fish monitoring report).

Goat Island, jutting half a kilometre out in sea, provides shelter and relatively clear deep water near snapper feeding grounds. It is a snapper hot spot. No other coastal marine reserve has shown such abundance, either here in NZ or overseas. Snapper abundance is measured by the Baited Underwater Video method, which exaggerates results. To keep mentioning the abundance factor of 28 is pure propaganda and bad science.
The average number of lobsters has almost doubled inside Leigh marine reserve in the last two years (Source: Coastal and Aquatic Systems Ltd lobster monitoring report, 2003).
This kind of propaganda and fact-twisting is unacceptable. Fact is that the crayfish population crashed by 85% in 1998, due to land-based pollution. To mention that it has been recovering in the 'good years' of 2000-2002, without mentioning their demise, is pure propaganda and bad science. Abundance of crayfish in the marine reserve in 2003 is no more than 30% of what it was for nearly fifteen years pre-1998. Most crayfish today are very young and small due to a single good recruitment year.
Research has shown that reserves do not ďlock upĒ fisheries resources.  For lobster, catch per unit effort (CPUE) yield and costs are the same adjacent to a reserve as in open fishing areas nearby.  Therefore, conservation goals are achieved at no cost to the fishery (Source: Babcock, R. 2003: The New Zealand marine reserve experience: the science behind the politics).
Unacceptably false. The lost fishery is a cost never mentioned. Crayfish inside the marine reserve and their increase in numbers is definitely locked up. Fishing the line does not lower CPUE or provide higher yield and catches to make up for the lost fishery. Read Babcock's report, debunked in Myths7.
Blue cod are larger inside the Long Island-Kokomohua Marine Reserve than outside (Source: Davidson 2001).

Snapper increased in number and mean snapper size has increased in the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve (Source: Denny, C. M., Willis, T. J., Babcock, R. C.  2003.  Effects of Poor Knights Marine Reserve on demersal fish populations.  DOC Science Internal Series 142.  Department of Conservation.  34p.).

 
True. Immediately after complete closure, snapper numbers in shallow water increased remarkably. Because the Poor Knights are an oasis-type of marine reserve, they attract fish from far around. The warmer shallow waters attract fish from the deep. The years 1999-2000 provided unusually warm waters and record spawning. As the large fish were not born after the total fishing ban, they must have migrated from far afield but the sub-legal and just-legal snapper recruited after the complete ban on fishing. Snapper migrate daily and seasonally from deep cold to shallow warm water, presumably to digest their food faster and to grow faster. It probably gives them a sense of wellbeing. But please note that the warm shallows are but a very small fraction of the total deep colds. So a high density found here (or fished here) translates to a very low density (or take) in the deep reefs. f041232: legal snapper school
f041232: school of just legal snapper, Poor Knights,
Feb 2004. Previously seldom seen, these fish are still 
very shy, moving at the edge of visibility. It took 
nearly one hour to take this poor quality photo.
Results from the above-mentioned publication.
snapper increases measured by BUVThis graph shows the main results of the monitoring study by Denny, Willis and Babcock (2003). They used the questionable Baited Underwater Video technique (BUV), obtaining the results for legal + sublegal snapper shown here. The solid circles relate to the Poor Knights, the solid triangles to the Mokohinau Islands and the open squares to Cape Brett. These scientists say that the density of legal snapper increased 9.4 times and sublegal snapper 2.9 times, by comparing the spring data of points 1 and 7 (1998 vs 2001). We drew the red regression curves in and claim that these are more representative of what happened, and that an increase of 3 times is more realistic. But notice that a similar increase also happened OUTSIDE the reserve at Mokohinau and Cape Brett. More to the point, the data shows that the seasonal variation in snapper numbers is of the same size as the total increase in 4 years, which is what one might expect of a migratory stock. In other words, it took only two years for the snapper stock to recover fully. Quite worrying, the results from visual counts (UVC) did not concur with those of the BUV. The scientists concluded: "Our study has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve: the number and size of targeted fish species are increasing." . . . [sigh]
decline in fish at the Poor KnightsThe La Niña warm water period resulted in fortuitous snapper recruitment (especially in 1999) in all locations and large snapper visiting shallow warm water where the BUV was employed. How much of all this is attributable purely to the fishing ban? Further monitoring may tell, but notice the large seasonal variations between spring (low points) and autumn (high points). Trevally showed a collapse of 50-75% in 2001 but researchers missed the collapse in blue and pink maomao and other stocks of schooling fish. Most notably this research showed chronic decline of common temperate species: banded wrasse, black angelfish, butterfish, goatfish, hiwihiwi, leatherjacket, pigfish, red moki, scarlet wrasse and spotty, which supports our claim of chronic degradation having arrived at the Poor Knights in the early 90s. The only species increasing in numbers is sweep, which is a harbinger of degrading waters as it gradually replaces blue maomao. [click on the diagram for a larger version]. Not a word about this decline in the whole article!! Dishonesty comes to mind.
The researchers opted not to census schooling fish and by doing so remained oblivious to the mass mortality of 2001, which, according to our observations,  reduced demoiselles by 65%; trevally by 75%; blue maomao by 80%; pink maomao by 50%; koheru by 95%; jack mackerel by 95%; kahawai by 70%. One may wonder how much one can learn from research aimed at proving points, like the effect of marine reserves on fish populations. From the recorded fish decline one should conclude that MARINE RESERVES DO NOT WORK.
For this study researchers did a massive 3686 UVC visual transects and 614 BUV camera drops!  Guess who pays?

In the Barbados Marine Reserve, 18 of 24 species were bigger inside the reserve than outside. Not surprising. Let's stay in NZ. How many of our coastal marine reserves show this?

In the Maria Island Reserve in Tasmania, there has been a 260% increase in the number of rock lobsters within the reserve and rock lobsters in the reserve produce ten times more eggs than those outside the reserve. Let's keep our facts to New Zealand. Where is our rocklobster success story, and will it last? They fled from Goat Island in 1998 due to excessive inflows of mud, which affected outside areas equally.

In the Sumilon Island Reserve in the Philippines, research has shown that 18 months after fishing was resumed in the reserve, the total yield of fish was 54% less. Not surprising. There is no fishery regulation. Sumilon is not NZ.

5. There has been a lack of consultation.
Most marine reserve proposals involve both pre-statutory consultation (occurs before a formal application is made) and statutory consultation (occurs after a formal application has been made) but only the statutory process is mandatory.

During the pre-statutory consultation for the GBI marine reserve proposal, DOC distributed about 4,500 copies of the proposal document, ďA Marine Reserve for Great Barrier Island? Ė Your chance to have a say, and questionnaire to 180 organisations, groups and clubs and approximately 600 individuals from March 2003.  DOC held meetings on GBI, in the Auckland region and in Whitianga. Why a public meeting in Whitianga but none in Auckland where most users of the proposed reserve area reside?

Articles and advertisements appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the NZ Herald, regional Auckland papers, Dominion-Post and Barrier Bulletin.  Items also appeared on the following television programmes: Breakfast, TV One News and TV 3 News. Please supply the total amount spent on advertising.

Information about the proposal was also available on the departmentís website, at the departmentís offices in Auckland, Warkworth and GBI and its Auckland Visitors Centre.

People will have an opportunity to make their views known on the GBI marine reserve proposal if DOC proceeds with it.  The Marine Reserves Act 1971 outlines the process that must be followed for every marine reserve application. Each marine reserve application must be publicly notified at least twice in newspapers.  Following notification, all interested persons will have two months to send their objections or submissions in support in writing to the Director-General of Conservation.  The Minister of Conservation must consider all objections prior to approving a marine reserve.

The GBI marine reserve has clearly shown that DoC does not listen, even tough it claims to consult. It should now abandon the idea permanently in the face of such overwhelming adverse reaction.


6. Concern about not being able to anchor in a marine reserve.
Boats can anchor in a marine reserve so the creation of a marine reserve will not stop people anchoring or sheltering along the north-east coast of GBI. When anchoring, skippers are encouraged to minimise disturbance to the sea floor.  In highly sensitive or heavily used areas inside marine reserves DOC may install moorings so skippers can anchor without disturbing the sea floor.

The fine for uprooting a kelp can be $5000 as is releasing a fish or urinating, in the new draconic MR Bill. When you have fish on board, it is up to you to prove that you did not catch it inside the reserve. It could cost you 6 months in jail or $250,000. You have to make sure that you need no concession for what you have always been doing before.
Where has DoC provided a mooring? At the Poor Knights which has sensitive areas, they have all been removed. At Leigh they have never been put in place. Private initiatives have been prohibited or hindered.


7. The proposed area is too big.
Many people have suggested that the proposed GBI reserve is too large and that they wish to continue to use parts of it.  DOC is now looking closely at submissions received, and is gathering more information on how people use the proposed area.  The impact that the establishment of a marine reserve may have on people who use the area will be carefully considered before DOC proceeds.

The proposed GBI marine reserve covers approximately 18% of GBIís coastline. Currently, New Zealand has 18 marine reserves that make up 7.34% of the territorial sea (area from the coast out to 12 nautical miles). If the current GBI proposal became a marine reserve this figure would increase to 7.64%.

At present the total area preserved in 17 reserves around NZ mainland's coast is 15,000ha. The GBI reserve would add 52,000ha or increase its size by 350% to 67,000ha. There must be very strong reasons to need this space for conducting marine research!


8. There are enough/too many marine reserves already.
It is Government policy to achieve a target of protecting 10% of New Zealandís marine environment by the year 2010 (Source: NZ Biodiversity Strategy 2000).  It is intended that marine reserves will contribute to this target.

There exists a conflict between the Biodiversity Strategy and the Marine Reserves Act. There exists no scientific reason or convincing logic to need 10% or 1,600,000ha for marine research. Many NZers are confused. The Biodiversity Strategy (marine) is seriously flawed.


9. Locals use the area for Ďsustenanceí fishing.
Many local residents and some visitors have said they use the Whangapoua estuary and coastal waters for gathering shellfish and sustenance fishing and that they would like to continue this activity.  DOC is planning to discuss this issue further with residents and other people who may be affected by a marine reserve being established.

People living there do not have a supermarket or fish shop stocked with fish. If you want to eat fish, you have to catch it yourself. Marine reserves must respect sustenance fishing.


10. The area should be protected by a marine park instead of a marine reserve.
There are two New Zealand examples that show partial protection, such as excluding commercial fishing and placing restrictions on recreational fishing, does not always provide a high enough level of protection to marine areas.

Limited recreational fishing was allowed in most of the Poor Knights Islands Marine reserve from 1981, when it was established, until 1998.  In the two years after fishing was prohibited in 1998, snapper numbers increased by 16 times.  Other fish populations are now recovering to a more natural state.

This is an unacceptable claim, not at all borne out by the data provided by scientists (see box above). The Poor Knights total closure has shown that fishing affected only a single species. They showed a remarkable recovery of Snapper, also co-inciding with the La Niña phase warm waters. But there have been mass mortalities of particularly planktivorous species in 1983, 1992 and in 2001 (El Niño phase cold waters), most likely due to poisonous plankton blooms triggered by nutrient enrichment from the land. The scientific data shows chronic decline of typical Poor Knights species after the complete fishing ban. In this respect even the remotely located Poor Knights are not exempted from land-based pollution, so what does a more natural state mean? The effect of total closure on other species has been unnoticeable. Reader please note that the Poor Knights are located at the edge of the continental shelf in usually clear waters. They are also a natural oasis for fish. They are not representative of our coastal marine reserves.
At the Mimiwhangata Marine Park, limited recreational fishing has continued since 1984 when the park was created.  Commercial fishing was prohibited in the area in 1994.  A long history of monitoring of marine life since 1976 showed only a small change in populations of fish and crayfish up to the present. In 2002 and 2003 studies of snapper showed no difference inside compared to outside the marine park, so even the limited amount of recreational fishing in the park has an impact on the species that live within it.
In marine reserves like Hahei, the abundance of snapper inside the reserve is not impressive either, but more importantly, the Mimiwhangata Marine Park has never been advertised adequately nor its rules enforced. There are no signs at boat ramps announcing its presence and restrictions. The MMP consists of a massive amount of shallow sands with narrow margins of rocky shore and no shelter near deep feeding grounds. It is not a snapper hot spot. One cannot expect a spectacular recovery after a total fishing ban.


11. The Navy area is a no fishing zone already.
It is true that fishing is not permitted in the Navy zone on the north-east coast of GBI.  The Navy area was not established for the purpose of protecting marine biodiversity but may have the effect of doing so.  If enforced properly, areas like the Navy zone on the north-east coast of GBI can prevent most activity that may threaten biodiversity values.

However, the Navy area does not contain many different types of marine habitat e.g. estuary, beach, deep water reefs etc.  The marine reserve proposal that DOC has put forward for GBI includes many different types of marine habitat in one reserve.

The Navy area could have been a good starting point with at least 80% of all other habitats nearby. There is again confusion as to the purpose of marine reserves. Are they needed to do marine research, to protect biodiversity or as an insurance for fisheries collapses?


12. Fishing pressure would increase elsewhere if a reserve was established on GBI.
Pressure may increase elsewhere if a reserve is created on the north-east coast of GBI.  While DOC does not look specifically at the displacement of fishing effort, this issue is partially addressed by trying to locate marine reserves in sites that impact as little as possible on existing patterns of use in the area.

DoC does not have the mandate to look at the whole picture and all of its issues. It cannot consider the alternative of a trawler ban combined with a locally managed fishing area or marine park.


13. It would be difficult to police such an area.
Many aspects of law enforcement are difficult in New Zealand.  For example, it is difficult for police to enforce speed limits as they do not have the ability to be on all roads at all times.  This difficulty does not mean that we should forget about law enforcement in this country.

People are quite willing to abide by laws that are reasonable. Many speed limits are not. Likewise, the fishing community is willing to accept reasonable fishing restrictions and police these willingly but not unreasonable ones.
The day-to-day management of marine reserves is done by DOC, often with help from the local community.  Honorary rangers sometimes assist DOC with aspects of marine reserve management, such as law enforcement.  It is expected that DOC would cooperate with the Navy, Police, Customs Service and Ministry of Fisheries to police the GBI reserve, as it does for some other marine reserves in New Zealand.
Here is a major flaw in DoC's centralised policies. Internationally it has been shown that marine reserves are best managed locally, backed by proper legislation. DoC must devolve the budget to the local community. Policing is best done by fishermen and the locals. It is also the cheapest way resulting in highest compliance.


14. Concern about being stopped within a marine reserve with fish on board which were caught outside of the marine reserve.
Fish caught outside a marine reserve can be transported on board a boat through a marine reserve.  There is no problem with having fish on board a boat inside a marine reserve as long as the fish were caught outside the reserve.

The problem is that you are deemed guilty unless you can PROVE yourself innocent, and that you caught the fish outside (New MR Bill). You stand to lose your boat and end up in jail.


15. There needs to be a strategy to create a marine protected areas network rather than an Ďad hocí approach.
Government policy, as outlined in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000, supports a strategy for establishing a network of areas that protect marine biodiversity.  DOC is currently developing a strategy which aims to identify a network of areas that protect marine biodiversity in the Hauraki Gulf.

In an integrated approach, the question is not where to put the pegs but what other alternatives are available, and particularly what is the problem. DoC is simply unable and unwilling to do this.
It is envisaged that key stakeholders and the wider community will be involved in the decision-making processes for this strategy.  However, such an approach may take some time.  For example, a strategic approach to marine protection that was undertaken in Victoria, Australia took approximately ten years to complete.
There is no defensible haste. Why do things wrong today when we can do them right tomorrow?
In the absence of a strategic approach, DOC must continue to follow Government policy and work towards the target of protecting ten percent of New Zealandís marine environment by 2010.
We are questioning this policy since it is not based on scientific fact or proof. Why is DoC not questioning it?
16. I use this area for customary fishing.
Some people told DOC that they use the estuary and other parts of GBIís north-east coast for customary fishing.  DOC is planning to discuss this issue with local iwi and hapu.  It is possible that areas of high value for customary fishing (e.g. parts of the Whangapoua estuary) could be excluded from the marine reserve.

(16A?) There is no point creating a marine reserve as fishing is not the problem, sedimentation & pollution etc are problems and marine reserves do not stop these

Sedimentation, introduced marine pests and marine pollution are all threats to the marine environment.  It is DOCís view that while management of these threats is critical to the long-term health of the marine environment, there is no reason to delay the creation of marine reserves when such reserves have proven benefits to marine life.

It is our view that this is not so. Where is the scientific proof of what DoC views and believes? What are the proven benefits to marine life (of all species) when DoC has not evaluated any of the existing marine reserves for their degradation? Why should we believe what they say in the absence of proof or even of any investigation? What are the real costs and liabilities as opposed to the perceived benefits?
We have not let problems with pests, weeds and erosion stop us setting aside conservation areas on land e.g. national parks like Tongariro and reserves like Tiritiri Matangi.  As a society we can handle many problems simultaneously.  So whether it is water pollution, marine pests, threats from fishing or marine reserves, we can deal with them together.
Oops. Tongariro was useless land consisting of rock and ice, as also most national parks are either too steep, too wet or too dry. Inside these parks, pests still roam uncontrollably, threatening our native flora and fauna. We as society have not been able to handle these problems. Conservation does not work when some major (unnatural) threats remain. Marine reserves cannot work in areas threatened by land-based pollution. Only by saving the land can we save our (coastal) seas. This is what DoC must focus on. The main problem with DoC's arguments is that they treat the sea as if it were the land. Setting aside a wilderness island makes sense but a marine reserve is not at all like this. Landbased pollution does not flow uphill to soil our national parks.


17. Marine reserves should be in an accessible area.
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 does not specify that marine reserves be established in areas that are accessible to the public.  The Act does state that the public should have the right of entry into the reserves so that they may enjoy, in full measure the opportunity to study, observe, and record marine life in its natural habitat. True, but those in accessible places with clear water are at least enjoyed while they degrade further.

18. Marine reserves should be in inaccessible areas, not good recreational fishing spots.
The Marine Reserves Act 1971 does not specify that marine reserves be established in areas that are inaccessible.  However, the north-east coast is, as many submitters pointed out, inaccessible a lot of the time due to weather conditions and wind.  It is also relatively inaccessible due to its geographic isolation e.g. it takes at least 2 hours to travel by boat from Auckland to the north-east side of Great Barrier Island. It is equally inaccessible to marine research. So what is the point of locking it up?

19. I use the area for recreational activities such as diving, swimming, surfing, walking, building sandcastles.
Activities like diving and snorkelling, swimming, sunbathing, walking, surfing and building sandcastles are all permitted under the Marine Reserves Act so people can continue to enjoy these activities if a marine reserve is established on the north-east coast of GBI. But you are not allowed to take sand home inside your shoes. Floor Anthoni wanted one spoonful of sand from the Kermadec Islands for his studies of beaches and this was refused!

20. It is not possible to dive at the greater water depths of the proposed GBI reserve.
Marine reserves are not established specifically for divers.  The purpose of the Marine Reserves Act 1971 does not state that marine reserves must be suitable for diving. True. Marine reserves are for conducting marine research, which needs to be done here with submersibles and remote-controlled vehicles.
 

Reader, by October 2003, about three months before above articles were published, DoC created a marine unit within its organisation and the above is what they produced. Now ask yourself seriously:

1) would you have confidence in this organisation managing 10-20% of our seas?

2) as you can see, there exists an enormous gap in perspective between DoC and fishermen. What do you think is the root cause of this?

a) misunderstanding
b) lack of consultation
c) plain deceit



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