Myths and fallacies exposed, part 4

Dissected by Dr J Floor Anthoni (2003)
The black or red text is the original text. The blue comments are ours.

-- seafriends home -- conservation index -- the war for reserves -- Rev 20030623,20030731,

Reply by the Director General of Conservation
Hugh Logan, 4 June 2003
[name & address suppressed on request of the originator]
This letter from the Director General of Conservation (DG) is in reply to an e-mail by [name suppressed], the content of which becomes clear by reading this reply. Read this carefully because the DG is pivotal in the process of creating marine reserves. Discover how poorly informed this man is. Read the process flowchart for more detail.
Dear Mr . . .

Thank you for your email of 1 May 2003 regarding the establishment of marine reserves and other marine protected areas in the Auckland region. It is true that a number of marine protected areas are being proposed in the wider Auckland region at present. I am pleased that my Department is proposing to establish a marine reserve on the north-east coast of Great Barrier Island and am also happy to see that non-government organisations in Auckland also believe our marine environment is worth protecting.

It is a pity that these non-government organisations are so poorly informed about the plight of the sea. The DG refers to the NZUA and Forest&Bird. Fishermen too believe that the marine environment is worth protecting, but knowing more about this environment, they disagree on placing, method, process, urgency and other issues. It pays for the DG to listen and learn.
The Department has no secret agenda to, as you  put it, deprive the public of their rights to gather fish for food. The Government publicly announced, in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2000 that it  would like to achieve a target of protecting 10 percent of New Zealand's marine environment by the year 2010.
Obviously, the Government and the DG have not sufficiently considered the consequences of their actions., which includes less fish caught, displacement of fishermen and economic loss to those affected in particular and to the country as a whole. The DG fails to mention that the Government believes that no-take marine reserves are the only means offering sufficient protection. Although this belief is wrong, it empowers, indeed instructs DoC to create the necessary number of marine reserves, since only they administer marine reserves. A large vote of money has been set aside from the vote for Biodiversity, to assist DoC.
But more important is the fact that this Government very UNdemocratically accepted the Biodiversity Strategy pushed down its throat by the United Nations whereas the public has never been able to vote  for it. It was not even informed. So the plan for 10% is undemocratic and fascist. To push it before 2010  can only be called heavy-handedness.
At present, there are 16 marine reserves established in New Zealand. Fifteen of these Reserves are Located around the North and South Islands of New Zealand and only protect 0.1% of the territorial sea around those islands. I do not believe the Government's marine protection target is unreasonable as it will leave 90 percent of marine environment available for fishers to use.
There exists no disagreement about the 90% left for fishing. The whole issue is with the 10% which is based on flawed reasoning, lacking sufficient evidence or proof. See FAQs.
I understand that you are concerned that all the 30-odd sites identified in the Conservation Management Strategy For Auckland 1995 - 2005 (CMS) will be established as marine reserves or other marine protected areas. At present the Department has no plans to propose marine reserves for any Auckland site other than the current proposal looking at the northeastern coast of Great Barrier island. If marine reserves are proposed for other locations in the future, a thorough consultation process will be carried out with local community  and other stakeholders.
Why is the DG not forthright? There are plans for more reserves in the Auckland region. It is true that this is so far the only site proposed by DoC. In all other instances, DoC hides behind non-government organisations like the NZUA or Forest&Bird. We have by now seen and experienced what a thorough consultation process involves.
Please find list below to your specific questions.

1.  Yes, the Department has carried out research into the social, economic, environmental and cultural well being of communities affected by the establishment of existing marine reserves, including the following:

a. Taylor, N; Buckenham, b. 2003: social impacts of marine reserves in  New Zealand. Science for Conservation 217.p 58.

This recent report (May 2003) examines Goat Island, Tonga Island and Pohatu (Flea Bay) marine reserves. It does not examine control sites such as Omaha Beach, and similar places. As a result it is inconclusive of how much benefit arises from people visiting clean beaches and clear water, and how much is attributable to marine reserves. It does however identify that Tonga I and Pohatu have not attracted business or ecotourism or education for their marine reserves. The report also identifies issues such as poor consultation prior to and management after the creation of a marine reserve.
b. A number of surveys of visitors to some of New Zealand's marine reserves
DoC has a number of consultancy reports, to which it refers often, but which are kept hidden from the public. We have attempted many times to obtain these reports but our requests have met with stubborn refusal. What are they hiding?

2  No, it is not the Department's intention or policy to destroy the recreational fishing Industry. The Department is the Central Government organisation charged with conserving the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand and includes conserving our coastal and marine environments.

This is just a case of the one hand not knowing what the other does. It has been a major mistake charging DoC with the protection of the sea. It is doing nothing to the sea's largest threat, land-based pollution. Is it interested in protecting the sea or its hierarchy?
3. No the Department has not declined or advised against any marine reserve proposal. A marine reserve  proposal is simply an idea, so is not something that can be approved or declined. If a marine reserve application is notified under the Marine Reserves Act 1971, it is then assessed by the Minister of Conservation who decides whether it should be approved or declined. The process of the Minister must follow to make his decision is set out in the Marine Reserves Act. The Department does not have the power to approve or decline any marine reserve application.
DoC's own handbook for applicants states that if any proposal receives major adverse reaction, it must be abandoned. (See process chart) The DG is wrong. Any idea can be declined.
4. No, the Department is not carrying out government policy to decrease recreational fishing activity. The Government does not have a policy aimed at decreasing the level of Recreational fishing in this country. The Department, as mentioned above is working to achieve a target of protecting 10 percent of New Zealand's marine environment by 2010, as set out in the Biodiversity Strategy. We are supportive of the work of organisations like Forest and Bird and New Zealand Underwater Association, which contribute to the Biodiversity Strategy Target.
True, there is no such government policy.
5. No the Department has no policy which directs it to establish a large number of marine reserves in and around populated areas where there is high recreational usage of the sea. Many of the 16 established marine reserves in this country are located away from densely populated areas like Auckland.
Partly true. A reserve with clear water near a populated area can promote recreation for people who love fish watching. These places must also be provided for. However, the sea is usually very polluted near urban centres. An exception is Wellington, located at the Cook Strait. Here a marine reserve is being created very close to a large urban population. However, its waters are rather cold and still polluted for most of the year.
6. Government  policy in relation to 10 percent target set out in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy relates to the establishment of a network of representative protected marine areas. A definition of marine protected area is as follows:

"An area of sea especially dedicated to or achieving the protection and maintenance of Biodiversity, and managed through legal or other effective means. Marine protected areas would therefore include marine reserves and could also include the following fishing exclusion zones: mataitai, taiapure, marine parks, marine mammal sanctuaries, wildlife sanctuaries, cable protection zones, sites protected under historic places legislation and coastal management tools available under the Resource Management Act 1991.

4 April 2003. Emma Rush (Public Relations Officer DoC) said in an e-mail: "It is not envisaged that this 10 percent will be totally made up of marine reserves - marine protected areas can include marine reserves but also other marine protection mechanisms such as world heritage sites, taiapure, seasonal closures and area closures to certain fishing methods etc." This would imply that it includes trawl exclusion zones (possibly the most effective protection mechanisms short of no-take reserves), scallop dredge exclusion zones, set net exclusion zones and so on. It would also include existing mammal sanctuaries. When these are all added together, a totally different picture emerges.
However, many of the protection mechanisms above, such as cable zones are not established specifically to protect marine biodiversity and may therefore not do much to protect it. Therefore, the Department and the Ministry of Fisheries are working on a protection threshold that will determine whether particular sites, managed by particular management tools are marine protected areas or not.
The DG is very vague in his assertions. If cable zones may protect, then why have these not been studied with the highest priority, before warring for new marine reserves? What is this protection threshold? Who determines it? What criteria are applied? If there is no fishing, is that not enough? What extra does a marine reserve provide that is not also provided by a no-fishing no-anchoring cable way? What is wrong with the Tawharanui Marine Park which enjoys total protection under the Fisheries Act? Why is this not sorted out first? Why is the NZ public left in the dark about this? Why do we learn of this only now?
7. It is not Government policy to have 10 percent of coastal waters or 10 percent of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in marine reserves within 10 years. The Government's Policy, outlined in the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, states that the target is to protect 10 percent of New Zealand's marine environment by 2010 in view of establishing a network of marine protected areas.
Will the DG please explain what is the difference between the two?
'Marine environment' is defined in the Biodiversity Strategy as: "Includes all areas in which the ocean and coast are significant parts, and all natural and biological resources contained therein. It includes the area from mean spring high water mark to the full extent of our EEZ (to 200 nautical miles offshore). Environments covered in the "marine environment" include estuarine, near- shore coastal, continental shelf, seamounts and sea-trenches."

As mentioned above, the 10 percent target may include other mechanisms than just marine reserves.

Why not begin the marine reserves process by explaining precisely what is meant here. Then add up the total area already preserved by other mechanisms.
8. No the department does not have a policy of financing groups proposing marine reserves. However, the Department does sometimes consider funding external marine reserve applicants to assist them to undertake a good consultation process and to help them collect adequate scientific information. We have provided funding of up to $20,000 to the New Zealand Underwater Association to assist them to run a good process in relation to the Tiritiri Matangi marine reserve proposal.
The financing of opposition is really a matter of equity or fairness. What is fair about Goliath beating David? DoC is extremely well funded from a vote of the Biodiversity Strategy, whereas the public is not. Many donate precious time and private resources to fight this unequal battle, which is so unfairly driven by an ideology which does not survive scrutiny, being flawed from top to bottom.
9. No, the Department does not have a policy whereby groups proposing marine reserves now will be given a management and compliance role in relation to the marine reserve in the future. When established, marine reserves are managed and enforced by my staff, usually with the assistance of the local community.
DoC is well out of its depth on this. Everywhere in the world, research points to local co-management as the best option for a reserve's success, acceptance and compliance. DoC as a centrally led autocratic bureaucracy has alienated almost everyone they have dealt with, and deservedly so. When do they realise they are wrong?
The N Taylor report mentioned above quotes: "Efforts should be made towards co-management, building responsibilities of the local community towards resource management. Co-management moves beyond consultation and liaison to community-based conservation of the marine environment, where communities are fully involved both in identification of the need for conservation and development of solutions (Luttinger 1997). . . It is important that local people be involved as participants in management, not just representatives of wider interest groups". When does DoC get the message?
10. The Department does not have a policy whereby if the majority of the public do not support a marine reserve, the Department declines the application. As I mentioned above, the Department does not have the power to decline or approve a marine reserve application. It is the Minister of Conservation's role under the Marine Reserves act 1971 to consider marine reserve applications. Members of the public have an opportunity under the Act to make an objection or submission in support of any marine reserve application.
Note the careful circumnavigation of the word proposal, replacing it by application. The Department's own handbook states: "The proposal must be abandoned in view of major adverse reaction". It does have a policy and so it should. It is simply untrue that the Department cannot abandon a proposal or even an application. If this were true, the Act or whatever they hide themselves behind, must be changed. The Great Barrier northeast coast proposal is a case in point. It has been abandoned twice, once in 1991 and again in 1994 in view of fierce opposition.
Before considering any application, the Minster must decide whether or not the objections should be upheld. The Minister shall uphold any objection if he is satisfied that declaring the area a marine reserve would:
a. Interfere unduly with any estate or interest in land in or adjoining the reserve,
b. Interfere unduly with any existing right of navigation,
c. Interfere unduly with commercial fishing,
d. Interfere unduly with or adversely affect any existing usage of the area for recreational purposes,
e. Otherwise be contrary to the public interest.

Objectors clearly voice the public interest and should be listened to. The word unduly must be defined. It is because of all these vagaries that the public has lost confidence in the impartiality of the process. History has also shown that strange things have happened behind closed doors. Part of the present opposition to ALL marine reserves is the public's desire to a transparent process and better consultation and participation. But first of all, the lies, propaganda, myths and fallacies must end.

The most important criteria should be:
e. The application must have overwhelming support from the public, particularly those most affected.
f. The Minister must be satisfied that the marine reserve is sustainable and that it will achieve its objectives (biodiversity, research, education)  and that it will not degrade.

If any objections are upheld, the Minister will not approve the marine reserve application.

Yours sincerely
Lilie Craig For
Hugh Logan, Director-General

Campaign for more marine reserves
Forest & Bird's campaign was launched during a gathering at Goat Island beach in Dec 2001
This news item appeared in the Forest & Bird ... blabla bla...Conservation News No 125, February 2002.

Forest and Bird launched its "I [heart symbol] Marine Reserves" campaign at Leigh Marine Reserve on 9 December 2001. It is estimated that 80% of New Zealand's biodiversity is in our surrounding seas, yet at present less than 0.1% of our mainland waters are protected in 16 small marine reserves. The rest of it is open to degradation from fishing, mining and marine farming.

Although more species can be found in the sea due to its large size and many phyla, most of these are not unique to New Zealand, being found over large areas of the sea where environmental conditions are almost constant. This contrasts starkly with NZ's native flora and fauna which have very high endemic content. It is true that only 0.1% of the territorial sea around the mainland is protected in marine reserves, but an area twenty times this size has been set aside in cable ways and ammunition dumps, effectively as de-facto marine reserves. Also substantial areas have already been protected as marine mammal sanctuaries. Why are these never mentioned?
The 10-25% claimed protected in national parks and other reserves is still under threat from introduced predators, grazers and invasive plant species, which is much less the case in the sea.Why do these protagonists keep repeating the same lies?
The coastal seas are not threatened by degradation from fishing, mining and marine farming. To say so is a blatant lie. The only kind of fishing that could damage the sea bed is trawling, but around the mainland no such damage can be demonstrated, because the seabed is subjected to high natural perturbation. There are some places where shallow rock protrudes from the bottom, but once found, these can be protected by excluding them from trawling.Besides, no fisherman likes to damage his expensive gear on such road bumps.
There is no place along our coast where the sea is threatened by mining. The oil and gas platforms do not cause demonstrable damage. The mining of sea sand and iron ore is also of little consequence to the sea bottom habitat. What's more, marine reserves are not of any help here.
Marine farming, although unsightly, consists of two entirely different activities: salmon farming and mussel/oyster culture. Mussel and oyster farms very efficiently convert the oversupply of nutrients in our coastal waters into healthy edible biomass. Their influence on the environment is beneficial and they earn high export incomes.
Just as we have national parks on land, where no logging or mining is allowed, we need to protect areas of the sea environment in reserves and marine parks.
When one does not understand the differences between land and sea, one is bound to make misleading statements. Although national parks protect against logging, they do not protect against natural fires, acid rain or global climate change. In the sea, the kelp forests have never been milled nor burnt. They are in a much more natural state than the land, but they are threatened considerably by mud from land erosion. Marine reserves simply do not help against such threats.
The no-take argument is also false. To protect biodiversity, one must retain viable populations of all species. In the sea, natural predation is much more prevalent than on land such that wise exploitation does not affect biodiversity. The sea recovers very quickly from overharvesting, contrary to the land which needs a few centuries to recover from burning and logging. Hunting is still allowed and is even necessary in national parks, which can therefore not be compared with no-take marine reserves. The taking of animal pests is also common practice.
Marine reserves must be 'no-take', with no gathering of seafood at all.
Wrong. Conservation responds much better to 80% protection at 20% of the cost, rather than 100% at 100% of the cost. In nature, unexploited species simply do NOT exist

Fishing is severely depleting fish stocks around the world and destroying marine ecosystems such as seamounts and sponge gardens. More protective measures, such as marine reserves, are urgently required if we are to avert the loss of fish stocks and the extinction of more sea species.

Time and again we hear the scare-mongering news about fishing. Yes, some fish stocks around the world are overfished, and they need time-out to recover. But whenever Greenies mention overfishing, they also mention 'fully exploited stocks', which is precisely the aim of fishing and not a mistake. However, here in New Zealand's seas, fishing is strictly controlled by the Quota Management System, which is beginning to show results.
Fishing can damage seamount life but broken corals continue to liveand reproduce. The intention of fishing sea mounts is not to snag one's net and lose it in the deep. But some collateral damage is unavoidable. NZ has 19 of the most accessible seamounts fully protected in large marine reserves. Until research can evaluate what difference these make, it makes no sense to protect more. Where significant sponge gardens are found, these can be protected by excluding trawlers. But remember that inside the full protection of the Goat Island marine reserve, sponge gardens are also disappearing.
Nowhere in the world have fish stocks been lost. In all cases the stocks have been able to recover, although a very few took over one decade to do so. No commercially fished species have become extinct, and there is no knowledge of other species having become extinct in this way. Turtles, lizards, dugongs, manatees which are threatened, are not a New Zealand problem.
This Government has a poor track record on marine reserves - it has not created any at all. The Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation need to process the eight marine reserve applications that are currently before the Government, some of which have been waiting to be processed for between five and nine years.
This Government has made a thoughtless mistake by declaring an intention of protecting 10% of the sea by 2010. It springs to mind that they may have been advised by the likes of Forest&Bird. The main threat to our mainland seas comes from landbased pollution, against which marine reserves do not protect. Most of our marine reserves are degrading year by year. What a nice gift this is for our children!
Think for one moment that these applications are held up for good reasons.

Objectives of Forest and Bird's marine reserves campaign include:

Forest and Bird members will be at beaches during the summer collecting signatures on marine reserve banners. These will be presented to the Government to coincide with World Oceans Day on 8 June 2002.
It is quite irresponsible for a large organisation like Forest & Bird to leave its members in the dark about the real issues surrounding marine reserves and the threats to our coastal seas. The article exposed above is just one example of the kind of disinformation it spreads. Why does this group fail to focus on the real threats from soil degradation and erosion? Why does it fail to be honest?

Ocean life crisis
Many aspects of commercial fishing in New Zealand waters are unsustainable,
according to Forest & Bird researcher Barry Weeber
Forest & Bird magazine No 301, November 2002
Barry Weeber is Forest and Bird's senior conservation officer for marine issues.
[this is the unabridged text of the article without its photographs showing the action on board
a hoki trawler, its net, catch and by-catch and hundreds of albatrosses on the sea]

New Zealand has responsibility for the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world. Its oceans cover an area 14 times its land area, some 1.2 million square nautical miles. New Zealand could be described as a wet continent with a few islands protruding out of the surrounding sea.

It so happens that all 4 million inhabitants of NZ live on the few islands whereas none lives in the sea.
Fishing is by far the most pervasive and widespread impact on the surrounding seas(false). Every year over 600,000 tonnes of fish are extracted from our oceans. Besides the target fish, hundreds of other species are accidentally caught. Every year this fishing catches about 10,000 albatross and petrels, around 1000 fur seals, 80 or so New Zealand sea lions and several dozen Hector's dolphin, some of these animals on the brink of extinction.
People fish the sea for food. Fish feeds us and pays for the things we import. We should be proud of the people who risk their lives to fish for our needs. What's wrong with that? The 600,000t fish appears to be NZ's sustainable maximum catch. Every year it is being replaced by Mother Nature. The author is a bit naive here in thinking that fishing can selectively target one species. The net goes down and the net comes up. What happened in between is anybody's guess. The net catches everything exceeding its mesh size. The author is also naive about birds and seals and mischievous by mixing world statistics with local ones. Although birds can live to a ripe old age, most by far don't, which reduces their average life expectancy to one year or two. Natural mortality is very high, particularly for juveniles. The same goes for seals. However, the author also forgot to mention that fishing provides birds and seals with food, making their lives easier while they learn how to raid nets and bait. It must also be noted that the total numbers of sea birds and seals has not reduced (due to fishing).
More than 80 percent of our biodiversity is thought to live in our surrounding seas. Every week new marine species unknown to science are trawled up and the potential threat of marine extinctions is a growing concern as areas of sea floor are scraped clean.
Although the sea has many species, most of these are not endemic or native to NZ, occurring over a wide area. Almost all recent discoveries are species of the deep sea. The author is naive again about the scraping of the sea floor. Nets avoid unnecessary by-catch such as starfish and the photos with the article clearly show that no such benthic animals are part of the catch. The author is plain wrong about extinctions in the sea. No fish species is known to have gone extinct (by fishing). Such scare-mongering rhetoric amounts to deliberate disinformation of the public.
New Zealand has an expanding domestic fishery over the last 20 years. We have pioneered fishing deeper (below 300 metres), over a larger area and for longer than any country. This has resulted, for example, in the demise of many orange roughy populations with one being reduced to only three percent of what it was 20 years ago. Other species have not fared much better - in the Otago and Southland area rock lobster has been overfished down to five percent of its original population, and in the Hauraki Gulf the schnapper population is under 20 percent of its original size.
NZ's domestic fishery has seen rather large shocks since the introduction of the EEZ, when foreign fishing stopped, but it has now stabilised. The author should be fair about the orange roughy fishery which was scientifically managed, yet went wrong. Scientists were at fault, not fishermen. It should have been known from ecological principles that deepwater fish have very low productivity. The author is also ignoring the fact that most knowledge of the sea is provided by fishermen who find stock, catch it and then show that there are problems (or not). How could one have known in advance that a stock is easily overfished? Once the problems were known, the fishery was managed with much more caution, even stopped altogether. The trial-and-error kind of adaptive management is a very valid, effective and cheap form of fisheries management.
It is not only target fish species that are at risk from fishing. As a trawler drags a net across the ocean floor it operates like a grader, destroying a range of species that occur on the sea floor including corals, bryozoans, sponges and other marine animals. In places like Spirits Bay and Tom Bowling Bay off the far North, in Foveaux Strait south of Invercargill and on the ocean seamounts, whole communities have been modified by trawling and dredging. (See Seamounts in Forest & Bird, May 2000; spirits Bay, November 1999) it may take decades, if not centuries, for them to recover.
Quite wrongand unforgivable really. A trawl net does not operate like a grader. The midwater trawls do not even touch the bottom. Normal trawl nets slide on otter boards over the bottom, drawing two shallow furrows. But collateral damage does happen, particularly on low rock protruding out from the sandy bottom. Where currents run (in all the places mentioned), rich communities of filterfeeders can be found. It is fair to say that the fishermen found these first; then they became concerned; then the scientists stepped in; then the environmentalists became concerned. These places are easily protected by the Fisheries Act, as shown for the areas concerned, but they cannot be protected before they are found first.
The size of the nets and the concentration of effort is huge. Nets used in mid-water fisheries, such as those for squid, southern blue whiting and some hoki fisheries, can be up to 400m wide and 80m high. At this size the Auckland Sky Tower would fit sideways through the opening in the net.
In other times, we would have been proud of this performance and efficiency. The fact of the matter is that fish are usually scarce in the blue sea, making big nets necessary. In some places dense populations occur but these need to be targeted precisely.
There has been some progress toward protecting the ocean environment in past three years. In 2001, 19 seamounts were protected representing 2.5 percent of the Exclusive Economic Zone. But this restraint on fishing does not prevent the Minister-in-Charge of Crown Minerals granting exploration rights to the same area and potentially causing greater damage than fishing.
The Fisheries Act was used to protect the seamounts. To mention these areas as a percentage of the total EEZ is unfair, since a large part of it consists of very deep ocean which may never be fishable. Every application for mining goes through the resource consent process which offers sufficient protection of the environment. There is no potentially greater damage than fishing. Show us where the threats are and which sea mounts are threatened by mining.
On the conservation side, the Wildlife Act and Marine Mammals Protection Act are supposed to enable the protection of marine mammals, seabirds and other protected wildlife. The qualifying fact is, however, that both pieces of legislation are subservient to the fisheries Act. The Minister of Fisheries is put in the driving seat when it comes to protecting marine species of birds and animals. If the Minister does not act then the Minister of Conservation has no powers to force action.
The author hits the nail on the head here by demonstrating that the Marine Reserves Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act were unnecessary and costly pieces of legislation, ill thought out and worthy of complete abolishment. The Fisheries Act has all the clauses for adequate and effective protection. Those who fish know best how to avoid damage to the environment.
At the same time, the Ministry of Fisheries has in recent years, under different ministers, worked on giving control of fisheries management to the fishing industry. The latest mechanism has been fisheries plans in the 1996 Fisheries Act which the Ministry is not proposing to write. Rather, they are setting up procedures which will transfer greater control to the fishing industry by getting them to write and implement the plans. An added concern is that a fisheries plan can also bind the Minister of Conservation but that minister does not have to be consulted.
The whole idea is to set overall goals and outcomes and let the industry work within these. It is not important HOW the goals are met. Fishing is already highly meddled with by Government, compared with farming and manufacturing. It is not necessarily a bad idea to have fisheries make their own plans, to be ratified by the public.
The concern in the last sentence flows from the inadequacy of the MRA.
The proposal is akin to allowing the mining industry to write conservation plans that control mining on conservation land, or the farming industry to write regional water plans. Forest and Bird believes it is essential for the Government to retain control and administration of fisheries management, research, planning and enforcement.
The author is a bit out of his depth here, mixing various concepts. Many examples exist of 'best practice' plans, like that of the fertiliser industry and many others. Retention of control can happen at many levels, but that which leaves most freedom is having control over outcomes, rather than processes. Administration is an activity which does not achieve anything for the environment although it must guarantee reliable data handling. The public cannot plan because it is ignorant of the sea and its resources, which are usually encountered by accident. Research and monitoring can be done and should be done by Government, as well as enforcement. It is very important that Government enforces the law and temporary fishing measures in order to make these work in an otherwise open, free-access fishery. All the obtained data and reports, including that of scientists, should be made available free of charge on Internet.
It has been clear for many years that the current system of oceans management is dysfunctional, unsustainable, and overdue for change. In 2000 the Government embarked on a number of processes to improve management of fisheries and improve marine management, but progress has been excruciatingly slow.
It is not helpful to linger in the past for too long, since major improvements have been made in recent years, in functionality, sustainability and consultation with others.
The Oceans Policy started with a hiss and a roar but was bogged down in vision statements and policy management of the review process. The decision to transfer administration of the review to the Ministry for the Environment will hopefully see progress in the next six months. At the same time as the Oceans Policy has foundered, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Hon Pete Hodgson, has also been pushing the fisheries ministry to develop an environmental management strategy.
Changes necessary
A key part of any change must be to significantly increase the amount of research funding to assess impacts of fishing and other activity on the aquatic environment.
Although it is easy to agree on the need of more knowledge, the reality is that all the knowledge obtained so far has been of limited value to setting Total Allowable Catch limits. We will never know enough to manage our fisheries in the traditional bean-counting way. There must be room for adaptable management and making mistakes to learn from. Those who think that science can provide all answers in advance from knowledge of exact stock levels, are just naive.
Any regime must also promote the development of a system of representative marine reserves to help avoid, or mitigate, the effects of fishing and protect biodiversity. Most marine scientists have accepted the use of marine reserves as a legitimate fisheries management tool.
This false belief stems from unrealistic fears of overfishing. Overfishing does not reduce biodiversity although it reduces numbers of a species in a locality, after which recovery occurs quickly. Marine reserves do not serve fishery management although closed areas may be needed from time to time, as a normal part of fishery management. Marine reserves do not prevent stock collapses.
International scientific advice generally agrees that 20 percent of any marine environment needs to be protected if fisheries are to be sustainable.
Wrong. There is strong disagreement between marine scientists, marine reserve scientists and fisheries scientists. The 20% stems from a fishery perspective which assumes that any fishery recovers easily from 80% (over)exploitation. By setting 20% aside in marine reserves, it is thought that sufficient protection is afforded in case of 100% fishery failure outside. This is just too simplistic to give any credibility to.

Forest and Bird's Marine Reserves Campaign
Forest and Bird's campaign for marine reserves extends to the issues surrounding conservation in the oceans. The impact of fisheries in the southern oceans is of particular concern - both in terms of long-term sustainability and for their impact on populations of other animals, including birds and seals.
Forest & Bird have demonstrated themselves to be too poorly informed to play a role in marine conservation.
Marine reserves are needed in critical breeding waters surrounding southern islands, such as the Auckland Islands group. There are no objections against marine reserves with clear objectives, as long as those objectives are proved to be met. But first of all the threats should be indicated. In recent times, sea lions have been dying of diseases for which the marine reserve will make no difference.
Forest and Bird support fishing industry initiatives to introduce better fishing practices which won't destroy seals and birds. Those most concerned and most able to do something practical, are the fishermen themselves. Join them! But also remember that natural mortality in these animals is high.

In 2001 Forest and Bird and ECO jointly undertook consultation on the proposals for the Ministry of Fisheries' environmental management strategy. This work was funded by a Green Party initiative in the 2001 budget. The key issues identified were:

Similar views were expressed when the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reported their reviews of fisheries and marine management in 1999. The Auditor General's report on the performance of the Ministry of Fisheries concluded: "The Ministry has been slow to commit resources to the environmental principles of the 1996 [Fisheries] Act, given that it has been aware of those principles and their implications for some time."
The report also found: " . . The Ministry manages most fish stocks without being sure if this management is sustainable .. . [it] is not able to make informed recommendations to the Minister on issues such as the effects of fishing on the marine environment and the interrelationships of fish species."
Damning criticisms, but let's see who would be able to answer these concerns better in their own activities: Fletcher Challenge? Shell Oil? Any dairy farmer? Any city council? Above all, the sea is a wild frontier of which we know preciously little. But is this enough a reason to stop fishing altogether? More importantly, can fishing be done sustainably without actually knowing whether today's catch is sustainable in the long run, or what interrelationships exist between species? It has done so for thousands of years.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's 1999 report on the management of the marine environment also criticised the absence of public processes. His report concluded: " . . there is little evidence yet to suggest that [the quota management system] is delivering sustainable management of fish stocks or the marine ecosystems they inhabit . . The dominance of the private property rights approach has, to differing extents, excluded the values and priorities of tangata whenua, recreational users, local residents groups and other concerned groups from policy and decision-making processes."
Tangata Whenua has its settlements and rights to a part of the total catch, but the public has not. This is what the recreational fishermen through Option4 are fighting for.
Three years later there has been little progress. Reliable population estimates are available for less than 15 percent of the commercial fisheries managed under the quota management system. The lack of research data available to inform decision-making is a key concern of the environmental community. There is a widespread view amongst these groups that fisheries research has focused largely on a small number of commercially important fish species with little funding available for projects to assess the impacts of fishing on the marine environment.
The cost of fisheries research even when involved with only few species, has been of major concern to the fishing industry. It is not likely that more research will deliver more of what is needed. So we may need to look at the fishermen and what they know from actually doing it, all their lives. It is of no use that an environmental community is worried when it does not really know what is going on.
Despite international obligations, management processes have tended to respond to fishing impacts only after damage to the environment has been done. Examples can be found in the decline of Hector's dolphin, the northern scallop fisheries and stocks of orange roughy, gemfish, rock lobster and paua.
This catch phrase 'damage to the environment' transfixes the environmentalist's thinking. Life in the sea consists of many tiers of fish-eat-fish food chains. Fishing by humans is just a part of it, bringing certain change to the environment as it shifts the balance in some stages of this food chain. But is this the same as 'damage'?
The mentioned examples cover a range of possible causes, that are not at all understood. To mention gemfish and orange roughy in one breath with the others is just mischievous and Hector's Dolphin is beset by entirely different problems.
New Zealand can and should do better.  It is clear we need a system of oceans management that is integrated, has clear goals and objectives and is open to public submissions and public scrutiny. We urgently need an environmental management strategy for fisheries, designed to reduce the impacts of fishing on the seas, and to eliminate the impact on seabirds and marine mammals. Meanwhile a precautionary approach should be widely applied.
It is wishful thinking that more red tape can do better what is already provided for in the Fisheries Act. What is needed is the integration of scientist and fisherman to make optimal use of what we already know, and to be able to react in time, with enough precaution.