Submission re Marine Environment and Blue Cod Fishery

Submission re Marine Environment and Blue Cod Fishery in the Marlborough Sounds.
April 2008, Danny and Lyn Boulton

To embrace eco-system based and integrated management preserving a minimum of 35% of the coastal area of the Marlborough Sounds.

Before you say no be sure you understand the science and evidence that supports this submission’.

It is no longer about single species management.

Globally our oceans are in crises. It is my view that we cannot separate the crises of our oceans from issues of climate change and local depletion through overfishing and habitat loss, modification and destruction. Eventually questions of acidification, pollution, degradation and loss of habitat will totally collapse our local marine environment. It is critical we look at and manage the marine environment for the long term. It is important we start now, today.

Warming trends in a third of the world’s large ocean regions are two to four times greater than previously reported averages, increasing the risk to marine life and fisheries, a U.N.-backed environmental study said.

Overfishing, coastal pollution and degradation of water quality were common in all 64 large marine ecosystems studied by scientists who contributed to the U.N. Environmental Program report presented at an international conference on oceans, coasts and islands in Vietnam this week.

Scientists said the 800-page report focuses on the risk to the sustainability of the $12.6 trillion value of goods and services produced each year in the so-called large marine ecosystems. The report recommended that 29 ocean areas adjacent to developing countries should also cap the yield of annual fishery catches as a precaution.

To help poorer nations better manage marine ecosystems, the Washington-based Global Environment Facility is funding projects worth $1.8 billion in 16 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Monique Barbut, chief executive officer of the GEF, said in an interview that oceans had been taken for granted in the global warming debate, including the Kyoto Protocol talks in Bali, Indonesia last year and the Convention on Biodiversity.’

By Grant McCool Reuters, Blue planet News April 25.04.2008

The time has come to look at the WHOLE of our marine environment, in particular the Marlborough Sounds in a holistic manner putting the environment first.

To date single specie management and self-interest have dictated how we manage our oceans at the local level. We take what we want out of the sea and put nothing back apart from what we don’t want.

Huge study gives wake-up call on state of world’s Oceans. First big picture map shows human activity damages 40% of seas.’

By Alok Jha The Guardian Weekly 22.2.2008


We have no scientific data as such, as a baseline. However the value of evidence from the ‘Lay’ person cannot be overlooked. We disregard it at our peril.

When we look at the records of Capt Cook, Maori and early settlers we see a fishery of abundance and in good heart. We read the book ‘Angelina’ and see that in the early 1900s there was a shear abundance of blue cod and other specie throughout the whole of the local marine environment. In no time at all the Moleta brothers had paid off their farm through fishing. We talk to old commercial and recreational fishers and see that it is not only Blue Cod but Snapper, Groper and all the other native species that have continually declined over the years. This area once supported a lucrative and robust fishing industry, today that has collapsed. Why, because of overfishing and habitat loss, sedimentation from farm erosion and runoff and the loss of coral beds and critical habitat for fish larvae.

In the New Zealand Geographic we read about the collapse of the Fouvex Straight oyster fishery and how science did not take account of the abundance of the fishery in the previous generation. Scientists call it the ‘sliding baseline syndrome’. By not recognising what the fishery was a generation before, managers were not able to predict the true nature of the collapse. The biogenetic reef, formed from oyster shell was not understood and was decimated. In other words there was a loss of habitat critical to the spawning and development of the oyster. There are parallels with habitat loss through dredging, farm runoff, pollution, forestry, trawling and aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds. Parallels we are not facing up to for our own selfish reasons.

I believe we are suffering from the same syndrome and we have lost sight of where our baseline should be measured. The last two surveys on blue Cod have shown a huge decline and then a decline on a decline. Our baseline today may well be under 10% of the original mass. This is a critical period because if it is not recognised and action not taken we face further collapsing of not only blue cod but other specie.

For a Government and policy makers to let the local marine environment get to this stage is unacceptable.

The proposed MAF plan for Blue Cod recovery does not go far enough.

On the land we have clear felled vast areas destroying habitat for our native species. We have then introduced pests, opossum, stoats, rats and cats. D’Urville Island once a wonderful example of bio diversity now lays silent. Once alive with Kiwi, yellow crowned parakeets, kaka and many other specie, sadly today no more.

In the marine environment the parallel is the same. We are continuing the same decline but in the sea. An expediential curve would show a steady decline from the time of commercial harvest. Like clear felling we have dredged and trawled destroying critical habitat for juvenile fish to grow and recruit to. On top of this we have farm run off, erosion and pollution. We have then layered this with aquaculture. There are genuine concerns with phytoplankton and zooplankton depletion, reef fish recruitment to farms instead of reefs and a change in seafloor habitat through waste, suedo faeces and shell deposit. We do not know nor do we understand the true effect of marine farming on the wider environment. A precautionary approach needs to be taken. I talked with a professor from Auckland University who studied reef fish recruitment; he agreed there was concern and not enough study done in this area.

We cannot continue to blindly cut quota and blame recreational fishing. We are still paying the price for habitat loss, degradation of habitat and overfishing by commercial fishers. It is not about hook size and shags but loss of habitat and protection of species at optimum breeding size. Shags are going to get the same amount of energy from fish as they always have wether they take it from a released fish or hunt for it them selves.

There is merit in closing the inner sounds however the present plan will only protect the inner sounds and put pressure on the outer sounds. In my lifetime I have seen the fishery slowly decline across all fronts including all species. It is time to wake up.

Science and examples of fully protected ‘no take’ areas clearly show a way forward. Why is it that the Minister of Fisheries and other managers who are paid by us, the people, to manage our fisheries asset, hold fast to old ideas unproven by time or science. Old ideas that simply are not sustaining our marine environment, and are a long way from enhancing it.

Ecosystem approaches to fishery management have been proven and are the only way forward if we are to save anything for the next generation. If we do not enhance our fishery we will certainly lose it. To date we have not sustained any level of wild stock in the marine environment.

Ecosystem Management

Ecosystem approaches to fishery management is aimed at conserving the structure and function of marine eco systems, in addition to conserving the fishery resource to the benefit of all. Without, we all inherit nothing but an inevitable collapse of the fishery.

An ecosystem approach to fishery management aims to protect and rebuild ecosystems, including species and their habitats. It adds to, rather than replaces, the approach of managing fish stocks one by one, or ‘single species’ management.

Fisheries management will be adaptive

Geographically specified

Take account of ecosystem knowledge and uncertainties

Consider multiple external influences, and

Strive to balance diverse societal objectives.

The transition to an ecosystem approach to management needs to be incremental and collaborative. Although scientists have been studying ecosystem processes for decades, long tern scientific research is still needed. (In saying this there is ample evidence of the benefits of eco system management).

The precautionary approach and risk-reverse policies have been advocated globally as essential to fisheries management. One approach is to demonstrate that fishing practices will not damage the stock, habitat or other ecosystem properties before allowing fishing to increase. This will assist the ecosystem approach to sustain and restore both fisheries and their ecosystems.

Impacts of fisheries on ecosystems are sometimes difficult to separate from environmental effects on ecosystems. Some of these possible fisheries effects include:

Direct impacts of overfishing

Modifying community species composition and genetic diversity through selective targeting on species and particular size classes.

Impacts on non-target species

Incidental mortality from lost or abandoned gear

Direct impact on the sea bed through trawls and dredges

Destructive illegal fishing methods and gear.

Human impacts on ecosystems, other than fishing include

Land based sources of pollution.

Off shore and marine based pollution

Noise pollution.

Habitat destruction, loss of wetlands and coastal areas.

Sand mining and dredging and aquaculture.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can make an important contribution to integrated coastal zone management and ensure improved management of ecosystems.

Exerts above from UN Atlas of the Oceans.

How much

The government promised us 10% of our coast as Marine Reserves (no take) by 2010. They have now changed this to 10% MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) which will be made up of three management systems, only one of these systems being ‘no take’. Our minimum 10% no take has been reduced to possibly less than 3%. This is not good enough and too little too late. Why has the government gone back on its promise while our fisheries collapse?

WWF recommend a minimum of 10% marine protected areas as the very least for conservation, 20% if we are serious about conservation and a minimum of 35% to 40% no take if we want to seriously rebuild fisheries. Science and study support this.

With the crises of our oceans and collapse of our local fishery of Blue cod and other specie I believe we should seriously be looking at protecting a minimum of 35% of the Marlborough Sounds as ‘No Take’. This 35% should be representative of our ecosystems and not be opened up to exploitation at a later date. This will give our marine environment a strong heart pumping all that is good into the whole of the marine environment. Planktonic dispersal will aid the recruitment of fish to local reefs although there is strong evidence to show reef fish and marine organisms recruit to marine farms and may well be lost in the harvest of those farms. Evidence shows aquaculture consumes zooplankton, which is then lost in the cycle and food web.

We also need to protect critical habitats on wider bases by stopping trawling and dredging in certain areas.

NZr’s on average believe that 24.8% of our marine environment is protected. 15% of these people believe less than 5% of NZ’s marine environment is currently protected.

95% of NZr’s think a greater percentage of NZ’s marine environment should be protected with an average of 36.46% protected as no take. This WWF survey (+/- 3.1% error) clearly points the way forward and that NZr’s want more marine protection and are in fact of the mind that we have more marine protection than we actually have. When the majority want more protection, why is Government abdicating responsibility for the marine environment?

When this survey was done less than 1% of NZ’s marine environment was protected in marine reserves. Top threats were seen as Commercial fishing 67%, Pollution and chemicals 63% and recreational fishing 22%.

My view is that recreational fishing is taking the hit for a resource that has been in decline since the advent of farming and commercial fishing. Blue cod stocks have got so low that the collapse of the fishery has been highlighted at a time when recreational fishing has gained popularity.

The government, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on biological Diversity, is committed to maintaining and preserving the natural heritage of our lands and waters. The government states ‘Marine habitats and ecosystems will be maintained in a healthy, functioning state, and degraded areas allowed to recover.’

Why are we then facing a fishery collapse? Why are the Government not showing leadership towards eco-system based management?

Top Marine Scientists of various specialisations recognise NZ’s oceanic environment and ecosystems, with a specific mention of the Marlborough Sounds, as unique and highly regionalised, with a level of global significance. They state ‘our current lack of knowledge is alarming and does not represent a sound basis for reliable policy and management decisions’ and call for immediate action by the Government and other stakeholders to ensure the capacity of relevant institutions address the situation. That was in 2003, why has nothing been accomplished?

In the last six months we have asked visitors to French Pass if they support eco-system based management. 266 signatures support this submission.

As we contribute to the submission process we would like to know the reasons and science behind the final decision of the Blue Cod management plan. If the views of this submission are not favoured we would like to know why.

Response to

Danny and Lyn Boulton

RD3 French Pass, Marlborough Sounds


NZr’s views on threats and protection in the marine environment

Results of a Colmar Brunton national survey. WWF NZ 2005

WWF The Fishery effects of marine reserves and fishery closures

Fiona R. Gell and Callum M. Roberts. A network of marine reserves increased local catches between 46% and 90% over five years of protection from fishing.

WWF Policy Proposals and Operational Guidance for Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Capture Fisheries.

WWF Australia 2002, Describes in detail the concept of Ecosystem-Based Management in Marine Capture Fisheries.

Long term trends in Lobster populations in a partially protected vs no-take Marine Park (Science Direct)

By nick T. Shears, Roger V.Grace, Natalie R. Usmar, Vince Kerr, Russel C. Babcock

Protecting our Seas

An overview of NZs marine biodiversity conservation and the role of Marine Protected areas.

Towards sustainability in World Fisheries (2002 nature Publishing Group Daniel Pauly )

Restoration of marine ecosystems to a state that existed in the past.

Shining a spotlight on the biodiversity of New Zealand’s marine ecoregion.

Experts’ workshop on marine biodiversity. May 2003, Wellington NZ

Marine Reserves for New Zealand

Bill Ballantine, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland

Marine Ecological Research in New Zealand: Developing Predictive Models through the study of No-Take Marine Reserves

T J Langlois and W J Ballantine

Marine Reserves Demonstrate Trophic interactions across Habitats

T J Langlois, M J Anderson, R C Babcock, S Kato, Published 2005

First observations of predation by NZ Greenshell Mussels on Zooplankton

National institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd

Reef Fish Recruitment

Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland