Myths and fallacies (2)

Dissected by Dr J Floor Anthoni (2003)

the road to hell is paved with good intentions

  1. On the value of marine reserves. A letter by Ken Catt, Forest&Bird, addressed to Option4. 28 Apr 2003
  2. Insuring Our Marine Reserves. 30/04/2003 05:12 PM - Mark Feldman - The Independent


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1. On the value of marine reserves by Ken Catt
A letter to Option-4 in response to a published article on the myths surrounding marine reserves [3]. 28 Apr 2003.

Like many who have both enjoyed fishing and demand our right to do, but are also most disturbed at the fall in fish stocks, I cannot understand why the Option 4 group does not want measures in place to significantly increase fish stocks. I note that there are still statements being made that there is no scientific proof that "no take" areas increase fish stocks which is quite contrary to the mass of evidence from around the world and reports from within NZ.

In the scientific literature, there are about as many reports of failed marine reserves as there are of successful ones, even though most failed marine reserves are often not reported on. Although there is no doubt that no-take areas increase fish stocks inside, in 20 years of trying hard, there has been no scientific proof that they do provide more benefit to the areas outside, than they take away. In fact, ecological principles demand that they cannot. Within NZ, the data on fish stocks inside reserves has been favourably affected by the baited camera, which exaggerates. It cannot be relied on and results obtained with it should be discarded for scientific evidence [4]. We have 3000km2 in de-facto marine reserves, and these have not proved to have increased fish stocks inside or improved fishing outside them.
Surely it would be better if rather than a demand that there should be no protected areas, the evidence is looked at rationally and areas identified which may be suitable as 'no take' zones In many instances these may be quite difficult of access. At the same time other areas which are important recreational fishing areas should be discussed with organisations seeking marine protected zones to ensure these are not included in marine reserve applications.
Indeed, the whole issue should be looked at with all stakeholders, and from a wide angle of vision. For instance, we should first look at the vast areas of de-facto marine reserves (3000km2) in cable ways and ammunition dumps, before proceeding any further. We should acknowledge our ignorance about the seriousness of environmental degradation. We should also evaluate the present 16 marine reserves on their sustainability, since at least 12 of these have been degrading badly. Anything that degrades, is by definition unsustainable. They are useless for the environment, biodiversity, research, education and recreation. Who would wish to leave such heritage for their children? What is their chance of helping fishery? Why do we want more of these? Why now?
The Minister is quite determined to significantly increase marine reserves, for the reasons shown below, and if you are to protect the important areas in the 90% of coast which will remain for fishing an exchange of thoughts with the conservation lobby could be quite productive.
The Minister is quite wrong on his marine reserves policy. The marine biodiversity strategy is also seriously flawed [6]. As can be shown from this article and many others like it [5], the conservation lobby consisting mainly of landlubbers is badly informed. What use is it to exchange thoughts with such people? Uninformed people should not speak up loudly, or have their opinions counted.

Why do we need Marine Reserves? :
Over 30% of our land area is in the public conservation estate. Only 1% of our marine area has similar protection (16 marine reserves). Take away the Kermadecs MR and there is only 0.1%. 80 % of NZ's indigenous biodiversity is likely to be in the sea with a new species being discovered on average every week. NZ's marine environment is 14 times our land area yet the resources invested in managing it are disproportionately low. Marine conservation is at least 100 years behind conservation on land.

There we go again, falsely comparing the sea with the land.
Although it is claimed that over 30% of our land area is in conservation estate, it has no conservation value since introduced predatory species like cats, dogs, stoats and many more are still roaming free. Also destructive grazers like deer, goat, rabbit, possum are roaming free, not to mention hundreds of species of invasive plants. The days of our native wildlife on land are numbered. This is not so in the sea, where the threats of deforestation, roading, development for habitation, farming and so on, are not present. Also the number of invasive introduced species is very small. Because of the sea's interconnectedness, the number of endemic species found there is low compared to that on land. The fact is that conservation on land is a farce. By contrast, the sea has by and large survived the uncontrolled onslaught of fisheries, and is able to recover under improved fishing management.
It is generally agreed that we have a very limited understanding of the marine environment. There is therefore a vital need to establish areas where scientific research can be carried out. We have only a minute area of our marine environment protected as compared with our reserves on land. We therefore urgently need to increase protection of areas of high value such as many sea mounts, Spirits Bay and similar areas where unknown and unusual species exist before they are irretrievably lost.
As stated above, there exist absolutely no reasons to hurry the creation of marine reserves. It is particularly wrong to create them for political point-scoring.  Increasing our limited understanding of the marine environment can be done anytime anywhere. The claims of marine scientists needing more marine reserves everywhere is not tenable. If that were so, they would have studied our de-facto marine reserves, which cover most of the environment inhabited by our commercial species (3000km2 or 20 times the area now in marine reserves). Most marine studies these days are carried out outside marine reserves. People who use the sea do not object against marine reserves for scientific study, but they are furious about forsaking their right for ideas that do not work, while surrendering large areas in the sea to a centralised organisation of landlubbers.
The Spirits Bay closed area is an example of how concerned fishermen discovered a scallop bed sensitive to trawling. Fisheries regulations then were adequate to close the area quickly. We do not need a Marine Reserves Act to do this. In fact, the MRA would have been entirely inadequate in this case.
People want to see marine habitats and species in their natural, unfished state which is leading to considerable pressure on the few reserves that already exist, such as Goat Island. This results in unnatural conditions as many hundreds of visitors feed fish and upset the natural balance. This makes research very difficult. Whilst existing reserves play a valuable role in educating the public in the value of marine reserves other reserves are needed to spread the load and reduce the impact of visitors.
There is absolutely no problem creating recreational marine reserves where appropriate, with good access and clear water. No amount of marine reserve will relieve the load from Goat Island, because there is simply no place like it, with good access and clear water and a varied rocky shore with an island in front and close to a large human population. Even marine reserves nearer to Auckland such as Tawharanui and Long Bay, are unsuitable for marine education and fish watching. In fact, over 12 out of 16 marine reserves also fail this criterion.
Basic research into marine ecosystems is essential if fisheries are to be genuinely sustainable, Marine reserves can act as control areas to judge the effect of fishing and other human activities on marine ecosystems. We still have very poor understanding of the devastation that our activities are causing, such as the impact of heavy trawls on sea mounts and bottom dwelling species and the waste arising from bycatch of unwanted species.
Indeed, we need to further our understanding, but why are most of our 16 marine reserves currently available not being used as such? Why is no research done on the de-facto marine reserves? Why do scientists want more space that they don't use, and why now? All the trawling impacts can be studied NOW, without the need for extra marine reserves. But it makes sense to set aside some sea mounts where damage has not occurred. Such marine reserves will work since they experience no other threats. However, by doing so, we also forfeit part of our welfare from the potential proceeds of fish from such sea mounts. Does the writer know how much this premium is?
The educational and ecotourism value of marine reserves makes their establishment worthwhile, particularly to encourage school groups and other interested parties in marine conservation.
How many of the 16 marine reserves have educational and/or ecotourism value? Two? Three? Does the writer know?
Purpose of marine reserves is not to exclude people as those who talk about reserves "locking up" areas imply, but to provide a much-needed refuge from harm for marine life. There is a mass of information from around the world on the beneficial effects that marine "no take" areas have in increasing fish stocks for both recreational and commercial fishermen.
Indeed, the principle of conservation is to take all harm (threats) away. Unfortunately, along almost our entire coastline over the continental shelf, the harm from fishing has become secondary to the harm from the runoff from the land. Even inside a fully protected marine reserve like Goat Island, many marine species have disappeared, while others have severely been reduced in numbers. In 1998 almost all crayfish walked out due to environmental degradation from mud. In 1993 the entire kelp forest disappeared due to dense plankton blooms. The story goes on and on. The 'mass of information' on beneficial effects is just one of the myths about marine reserves. Marine reserves do NOT increase fish stocks that are accessible to fishermen. They decrease the total catch.
I show below a summary of articles from the "Economist", one of the most authoritative publications in the world, giving clear proof of the substantial and quite rapid improvement in fish stocks once protected areas are established.
The economist is just a newspaper, written by people who know very little of the marine environment. They report on press releases prepared by the marine reserves lobby. To call their evidence authoritative, is naive and misleading - read on.
The Economist May 3rd 1998 By providing a safe area marine biodiversity is protected and the marine gene pool for various species is in less danger of extinction. This acts a a nursery where fish can breed, the young mature in safety, with a consequent increase in the size and abundance of fish stocks. Eggs and larvae are carried out of the reserve by currents and adult fish move in and out. The larger fish breeding in safety in the marine reserve produce substantially more eggs than smaller specimens, which will add to the population. The substantial increase in fish stocks both inside and outside the reserve is well documented....bla bla bla.
This is a good example of the simplistic understanding many people have about the sea and what lives in it. Just as if fish are born in nurseries next to their mummy and daddy, as if fish know where the safety begins or ends, as if fish are threatened by extinction. This tear-jerking stuff, belongs on the book shelf together with Pooh Bear. There have been no documents of substantial increases of fish stocks outside marine reserves - read on.
In 1989 a 137 hectare marine reserve was established around the San Salvador Island in the Philippines and this "no take" area was policed by local villagers. Research showed that within two years catches had increases by one third.
137ha=1.37km2  about one quarter the size of Goat Island marine reserve. Is this a serious sample? Catches have increased mainly by banning destructive fishing methods.
In New Caledonia a reserve was created around five islands in a south west lagoon. After five years there had been an increase of 67% in species, 160% in the number of fish, and the biomass had increased by 246%.
There exists no doubt that fish inside a closed area increase in numbers and size once fishing stops. The point is that fishing dropped by 100% in this area. Total productivity has decreased substantially. Remember that this area has been very heavily fished on all species, including corals, and with destructive fishing methods. The situation does not apply to NZ.
The Economist Nov 4th 2000 In Fiji Ratu Kitione Vesikula was successful in reversing destructive fishing practices and in getting commercial licences withdrawn and a 'no take' marine reserve established. Research within this reserve improved the understanding of breeding patterns and life cycles and fishing seasons were introduced for some species. After three years only, local fishermen found that the yield had increased so much that they needed to spend only half their previous time fishing. Clams had increased ten fold, mud crabs three fold, and biomass double within three year to five years.
The closed area of Ucunivauna in Fiji was 0.24km2, or one twentieth the size of that around Goat Island, which in itself is considered hopelessly too small. Are we serious here? Furthermore, all the claimed benefits were obtained with fisheries-related management practices like banning mangrove cutting, replanting mangroves, withdrawing commercial licences, reducing the numer of fishermen, banning coral extraction, fish poisoning and more [2]. More importantly, the rebounding of a totally extracted area, such as is common on coral reefs, can not be compared to the situation in New Zealand.
The Economist Feb24th 2001 Fisheries around the world in danger of following the example of the Atlantic cod fishery and collapsing totally. Restrictions such as limits on catch or days fishing, or types of gear used, are not having the desired effect.
People more familiar with the worldwide management of fisheries, will be aware that fisheries managers are advised by scientists. After analysing all fisheries failures in the world, it has become clear that fisheries scientists gave wrong advice, based on flawed computer models and a poor understanding of marine ecology and how fishing is done. Having lost the plot, these same fishery scientists are now seeking refuge in networks of marine reserves, again without understanding how these work or whether they will work for fishing. Why should we heed their advice now? The previous two examples shows that fishing restrictions such as limits on catch, days fishing and gear used DO have the desired effect [2].
Fishery scientists now suggest a network of fish parks where fishing is banned completely. A survey carried out by America's National Centre for Ecological Analysis of 100 'no take' areas around the world showed these reserves had an average increase of 91% in the number of fish, 31% in size of fish, and 23% in the number. These increases occurred within two years of starting protection and spilled over to areas where fishing was still permitted.
There is no doubt that fish increase in size and number once fishing stops, and more so where fishing once was intensive. The average numbers shown above are not impressive at all, and few fishermen would like to give up their fishing spots for such marginal improvement. Note that the figures quoted relate only to stocks inside the reserves, but not to their spill-out. It is quite typical of scientists' poor understanding of marine ecology that they have lumped all 100 results together.
In St Lucia a third of the fishing grounds were designated 'no take' and within three years commercially important fish stocks had doubled in areas adjacent to the reserve.
The Soufrière Marine Management Area at St Lucia, West Indies, is 11km long and 100m wide, or about 1.1km2. It was created to resolve conflicts between stakeholders, from fishers to divers to boaties, and consists of areas set aside for each. There are four small no-take areas, designed for optimal spilling out of fish, rather than for rebuilding a pristine reef community structure. Most if not all fishery benefits were obtained by compensating older fishermen (16!) to leave the fishery. Others were able to fish offshore with bigger boats [2].
Of particular interest is the survey of 100 'no take' areas around the world which clearly refutes the argument that we cannot compare the results of protection in other areas to our own New Zealand environment.
It was scientifically quite inconsiderate to lump all marine reserves in all marine provinces together. It certainly does NOT prove anything at all, like saying that because people are on average quite stupid, you must be stupid too. What scientists in essence did, was to put oranges, apples and crab apples in a statistical blender, judging the mix as sweetish, and then concluding that all fruits are sweet. Take good notice of the examples above which the author cited as proof that marine reserves work for fishing. They are all trivial and tropical, and all benefits were obtained by fishing regulation.
There is also a mass of evidence as to the effectiveness of marine 'no take' areas in increasing fish stocks at web sites such as [1]
MPA News is politically and ideologically motivated and does not publish criticism of marine reserves. It is quite selective in what it wants its subscribers to know. Although it accommodates good scientific articles, it is in this respect not scientific, since science welcomes rigorous discussion in a quest to discover the truth. Furthermore, as scientists never publish that they were wrong, the scientific literature has become quite biased.
Current marine research and management does not provide adequately for an ecosystem based approach e.g. quota system is single species focused. There are still no strategies to implement sustainability principles in Part II Fisheries Act 1996, 8 years after it was passed. Whilst the quota system contributes to prevention of overfishing we still see fish stocks of many species substantially diminished and in some case virtually extinct. The system does nothing to actively increase breeding rates but merely reduces the number of fish taken. The quota system is difficult to police and there are many breaches.
The term ecosystem based ECB approach is one of the least understood in science, but it feels good. Scientists have never explained how it works, and failing to do so, they have embraced the marine reserve concept as their sole vehicle for fisheries management. But the solution is quite simple. Marine ecosystems work quite well if more fish is left in the sea. This can be done very well using the quota management system and/or other fisheries regulations. The additional advantage would be fewer days at sea with higher catch rates and profitability. However, marine reserves will not help because commercial fish stocks are migrant, leaving a reserve in order to spawn somewhere else. If breeding needs protecting, a seasonal and/or area fishery closure is the most effective way to do so. Most commercial species spawn in the warmth of summer, so that would be a good time. Marine reserves would simply have no effect, except on small resident fishes, which are not targeted commercially in New Zealand. When it comes to policing, marine reserves have also suffered extensively from illegal poaching. The more marine reserves, the more breaches and the higher the cost of policing.
A marine reserve where all marine life can breed in safety is much simpler and easier to enforce as any boat fishing in the reserve is breaking the law. Global positioning satellites can monitor vessels positions automatically. Intensely exploited species such as rock lobster and paua will benefit substantially from such protected zones.
The suggestion sounds acceptable, but is not so practical. GPS satellites do not monitor boats, but GPS equipment on boats derive their positions from the signals sent out by these satellites. If boats require monitoring, then they should all be equipped with transmitters sending their positions to many receiving stations on land. It would add up to a hopelessly complicated and expensive method. The best method is still voluntary compliance by fishers for methods that prove to work (not marine reserves), and policing by their very large numbers.
The claim by the fishing industry that initiatives such as mataitai and taipure are adequate tools is not valid as they are quite restrictive in their application and do not provide permanent "no take" areas. Marine reserves must be an important aid in increasing fish stocks for both commercial and recreational fisheries and must be considered a valid tool in any fisheries management system.
Wrong. Mataitai and Taiapure reserves are quite flexible, unlike marine reserves created under the Marine Reserves Act. They also involve local management, which is an important key to acceptability and compliance. Under the fisheries Act also permanent and strictly no-take marine reserves can be created and/or combined with reserves for recreation, research, education and other reasons. It is simply the most flexible way to go about it. Furthermore, the people who know the area, having a presence there day to day, can use their local knowledge for managing the reserve, rather than a centralised group of treehuggers. Note that unexploited fish populations simply do not exist in nature, and that most thrive from a modest degree of (human) exploitation. Furthermore, scientific research into the fisheries benefits of marine reserves have been inconclusive or negative. All claimed fishing benefits did not arise from marine reserves but from additional fishery-related regulations such as area closure, reduced number of fishers, banishing damaging fishing methods and so on [2].

It is quite pitiful that the arguments above are based on fishery benefits achieved by fishing regulation, but ascribed to the presence of pin-prick sized marine reserves elsewhere. Madness?

The fact that the harmful effects of mud from erosion, poisonous and dense plankton blooms arising from farm runoff, sewage and erosion is not mentioned by the author shows how little people realise how the situation in our coastal seas has changed. The situation is now that coastal marine reserves can no longer deliver the benefits claimed from them. The fact that this overwhelmingly important factor is not mentioned by any of the scientists studying marine reserves, even though the situation is far worse elsewhere in the world, shows how irrelevant their findings really are, at least for our country.

Mr Catt cannot be blamed for not having informed himself. Unfortunately, the only information available to the public is misleading propaganda disseminated by the pro marine reserves lobby. These protagonists, calling themselves scientists, have succumbed to the temptation of citing facts out of context, while giving them a different meaning. Unfortunately, this kind of misinformation has become common fare with the marine reserves lobby [5].

Ken Catt
P O Box 45 144; Te Atatu Peninsula; Waitakere City; New Zealand
Ph: (09) 834 6214 Fx: (09) 834 6270 e-mail:

[1]  MPA News, the newsletter on planning and management of marine protected areas.  MPA News serves the global MPA community with news, views, analysis, and tips gathered from experts around the world, already since Nov 1999. Many interesting scientific articles but hopelessly biased and political. , also accessible through

[2] The fishery effects of marine reserves and fishery closures. Fiona R Gell and Callum M Roberts. Read this with care because the authors interpret the data out of context, arriving at conclusions contrary to those expressed by the contributors to the case studies. This 89-page report in PDF can be copied free from  .

[3] Marine reserves are not working, why hurry? J Floor Anthoni. .A Seafriends press release of 30 Jan 2001.

[4] In Frequently Asked Questions read How are fish counted? J Floor Anthoni. counting.

[5] Myths and fallacies exposed in speeches and press releases about the benefits of marine reserves.
J Floor Anthoni.

[6] Submission on the Marine Reserves Bill 2002, and speech. Floor Anthoni, Paul Barnes, Scott Macindoe, 28/2/03.

2. Insuring Our Marine Reserves - Marine reserves: an insurance policy
30/04/2003 05:12 PM - Mark Feldman - The Independent.

I like to go fishing. Lots of Kiwis do. A million of us go fishing every year for fun and food. There are also tens of thousands of tourists who come here to fish, spending millions in the process. And, of course, there's the commercial fishing industry which earns hundreds of millions for New Zealand. Fishing is a big business, a very big business, yet we have done nothing to insure it against the inevitable management disaster.

Indeed, in the past couple of decades we have enshrined the free-for-all policies of the free market, which places high burdens on men and material. We have believed that the price signal is able to control fisheries much better than foresight. But as catches come down, prices go up and the fishing effort goes up, until stocks are hopelessly depleted. Nature understandably does not react to human price signals by producing more fish like factories would. So let's start here to get fishing right.
The Ministry of Fisheries is theoretically responsible for preventing that disaster. But the ministry is failing at its task. Under tremendous pressures from the commercial sector, the ministry pursued a "too little, too late" policy of management until the late 1980s. The Quota Management System (QMS) was supposed to replace this approach but it is flawed scientifically and socially.
The Ministry considers advice from all sectors, including fisheries scientists. Unfortunately their computer models were flawed. Based on freemarket ideology the QMS was put in place with tradable quotas but it still needs to be controlled by foresight. The neoliberal 'Rogernomics' ideology, in which many people still believe, has brought about large untried changes at tremendous cost, changes which have proved to be disastrous but which are hard to undo while supported by a large following of true believers.
The QMS is based on the assumption that we can manage a fishery to get the maximum yield by keeping the total number of fish in the water quite low (about 30% of the original amount). That way there's plenty of food available to enable young fish to grow quickly and be harvested. But this is knife-edge management: the number of fish in the water is so low that just a little bit of over-fishing will push the population off the "edge" so it takes years to recover, if it recovers at all. Our snapper are a good example. For social reasons, that "little bit" of over-fishing is inevitable.
Wrong. The QMS is based on Maximum Sustainable Yield, which should be about 50% of an unexploited fishery. The problem is that fishing technology does not stop there, and MSY is easily exceeded without much warning at all. A little bit of overfishing will not push the population off the edge, but will make it uneconomical. In this manner all fish stocks are de-facto protected from extinction. However, in recent times, fishing methods have become more deadly, enabling fishermen to fish stocks down below a critical level for recovery. Also unpredictable circumstances such as recruitment failure are occurring. Snapper is not such a good example since some snapper stocks do well, others not. Snapper is a very hardy fish that thrives from the deaths of others.
Fisheries science is not exact: it's hard to count fish in the water. When ministry scientists determine that the population of a species is getting too low, the commercial lobbyists fight with them for years over the quality of their data, looking for flaws so they can keep fishing now, without concern for the future.
True, there is some political wrangling because there's so much at stake, but many disputes are about stock assessment models not representing the real situation. Fisheries scientists do not quite understand either marine ecology or how fishing is done. Basically fishermen go from one stock to another, while exhausting each. In the process, new stocks are discovered. This is similar to what dolphins and other predators do, because it is efficient. Models do not reflect this. The real problem is that commercial pressure, dictated by world prices and high equipment costs, is so high. Fishermen do not overfish by choice. The freemarket principle stands at the door (or helm?) of the QMS. Local companies now owned by the sharemarket are under tremendous pressure since they fish for the income of their invisible owners. They have become part of the international casino economy which only rewards returns on investment.
While the bickering goes on the number of fish in the water continues to decline. Our orange roughy suffered from this fate and the blue cod is going the same way.
It is true that stock assessments run a couple of years behind the real situation, so that measures are taken too late. The orange roughy story is one of not understanding the ecology of the deep sea. As food is very scarce here, fish grow very slowly, mature late (80 years) and live to a ripe age (120y). It was not recognised from ecological principles that fishing at depths below 200m may never be sustainable. This was not a mistake made by fishermen but by scientists.
The QMS also offers no meaningful controls on fishing techniques. Trawl nets and gill nets (especially in the hands of amateurs) are wasteful, killing far more fish than are harvested.
The QMS works together with other fishing regulations that control fishing methods, enabling meaningful control. Every fishing technique has harmful side effects, some more than others. While fish was plentiful, this did not matter, but as freemarket fishing pressure increased and stocks diminished, side effects became more harmful. We must fish with friendlier methods while leaving larger stocks in the sea. Marine reserves do not offer a solution.
Horribly destructive methods like bottom trawling and dredging destroy the very environment that produced the fish in the first place.
It is easy to say that trawling and dredging are destructive, but the sandy sea bottom repairs itself quickly, since it is used to large-scale damage from natural causes, as it is also perturbed (dug over) by organisms living in it. While we associate loss of fish and shellfish with fishing effort and technology, we remain blind to the harmful effects from silt and poisonous plankton blooms. The first harms slowly while the other kills suddenly in large quantities over large areas. Why has trawling become 'destructive' so suddenly, whereas it has been sustainable for a very long time before? Why are all problems accumulating right now? The new threats from silt, suffocation and poisons cannot be counteracted by marine reserves since these suffer at the same rate as places elsewhere. We must also acknowledge that most of our knowledge about the sea has come from fishermen who fish, not from pristine patches of ocean.
Most recreational fishermen recognise what's happening and also know we need an insurance policy. Back in 1990 New Zealand Fisherman magazine ran a survey of its readers - all experienced fishermen. Of 1,100 replies, 74% of respondents said they would be happy to give up fishing in an area that would be made into a no-take marine reserve.
For an analysis of the insurance value of a reserve, read [1] which concludes that there is none. All surveys asking whether people support marine reserves are flawed, like asking people whether they like peace. The question should have been whether people like marine reserves that won't work.
In 1992 New Zealand Fisherman tested that enthusiasm in another survey. This time they asked, "Would you be willing to give up your favourite fishing spot if it were to be included in a no-take marine reserve?" Of 1237 replies, 69% said "yes."
Most people, including the writer, know too little about marine reserves. They imagine them as pristine paradises, being unaware that most of our marine reserves are mud infested badlands of the sea, degrading further from year to year.
In 2002 another survey was done around Tiritiri Matangi Island, an area proposed for a marine reserve off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, north of Auckland. People were surveyed while visiting the island and while fishing in the Furuno fishing competition. An amazing 58% of people actively fishing the area thought a no-take marine reserve should be established there. In addition, 80% of the fishermen agreed that between 10% and 20% of our marine areas should be in reserves.
In this survey too, the questions were inappropriate and loaded, without alternatives, as if there was only one box to tick. Most people, including fishermen, are uninformed about the reality of marine reserves. The pro marine reserves lobby has painted a rosy picture, far removed from present-day reality. People have been lied to and are not aware of what marine reserves canNOT do [3].
It's clear that the majority of people who know what's happening on the water realise we need protection against bad management and that marine reserves are the best choice, if not the only choice.
Many people think that by having some marine reserves, their bag limits will remain unaffected. The author thinks that if you have five children, you should focus on one and disregard the others. It is plain silly not to focus on all areas, and this can be done by minimising the harmful effects of fishing. Marine reserves are needed for some purposes like recreation, research and education, but they are neither a good alternative to good fishing management, nor an insurance.
Anyone who has visited a reserve is inevitably overwhelmed by the profusion of life. Not only is there a wide variety of living things, but there are more of them and they're bigger too. Big fish lay a lot more eggs then small ones (a 60 cm fish lays 200 times more eggs than one 40 cm long) and the number of eggs in the water does make a difference when there are only a few fish left.
Wrong and wrong. Most species (99.9%) are not fished, and a reserve makes no difference to them. A reserve affects only those species that are fished. Most of these are migrant, and are not protected. For resident fished species, a reserve makes a difference. They become more numerous and bigger. Bigger fish produce more eggs but not 200 times more - rather 200% = 2 times. If a 40cm fish produces no eggs at all, a 60cm fish may make 2,000,000 times more eggs. Bad statistics! Most eggs are for producing food (over 99.99%) rather than offspring (less than 0.01%), which makes the benefits of increased spawn questionable. Most of the commercial species move out of a reserve for spawning.
A thoughtfully located reserve literally "leaks" life into the surrounding water, providing insurance while enhancing the remaining resource. To create a reserve that will "leak life" the area needs to be chosen wisely. It must be an area that was, or still is, rich in marine life and it must be big enough to make a difference. This means that some of the best fishing locations will need to be completely protected to insure the resource against present and future management disasters.
wrong and wrong. A good marine reserve does not leak fish out, but a bad one does. You don't want the breeding fish to spill out, neither does one want to lose the large spawners. Some of the best fishing locations are either hot spots that attract fish, like islands do, or migration corridors. Neither is particularly suited for breeding or leaking out. No marine reserve is an insurance for the area around (see [1]), but a marine reserve can be an insurance for the area inside, such as sea mounts. Although we do want to preserve the best for our children, it will be very difficult to decide which are such places in the sea. We certainly do not want to saddle them with useless burdens.
Although the vast majority of fishermen willingly accept the need for marine reserves, a minority does not. And it is a vocal minority. They complain that when the Ministry of Conservation creates a marine reserve it means something is being taken from them. And they're right, something is being taken away from them, but it wasn't ever owned by them in the first place. They were just allowed to abuse it for a while.
When confronted with the shortcomings of marine reserves, very few people will remain enthusiastic for them, and rightfully so. Because marine reserves stop only the harm from fishing, they will work only in places where no other harm remains, such as around very remote islands. However, all along our coast, the harm from mud, plankton blooms and poisonous plankton, is not reduced by marine reserves, so they cannot work here. This is simply according to an important  principle of conservation. Most of our existing marine reserves furthermore prove this point.
When a reserve is created, the fishing of that area is taken away, with very little in return, which is reflected in less fish caught, a higher fishing pressure on the remaining area, while unfavourably affecting the economy and people. Fishermen are also furious that large parts of the sea are being controlled by an ideologically driven people who have practically no knowledge or experience of the sea.
The fishery is actually owned by everyone. And most of us have agreed it's time to take some of the best bits back to insure our children's children against our follies.
Wrong. The fish belongs to those who catch it but not to armchair conservationists. Before people who have very little understanding of the issues, such as this writer, make up their minds, they should first inform themselves. Reading the Seafriends web site would make a good beginning [2].
Mark Feldman is a Northland-based sportfisherman.
[1] In Frequently Asked Questions, read Do marine reserves provide an insurance?
[2] The Seafriends web site is aimed at saving our seas by means that work, while not leaving an unbearable burden for our children. We want to do the right thing for the right reasons at the right time. In this free web site you can learn how the planet works and our oceans; that soil is the world's largest problem; that we are losing it fast and how it damages our seas. You can learn about what makes our country so special but also so vulnerable, and why & how the threats to the coastal seas have changed so suddenly. .You can also make a virtual visit to some of our marine reserves. Illustrated with many diagrams and photos.
[3] In Marine conservation, read Benefits of protection.