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Threats to New Zealand's Oceans

In a November 2001 report to the Ministry of Fisheries, Ecologic sought to identify the main risks to New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems, and to suggest what could be done about them.

We believe there are five main threats to New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems, and the sustainable human use of them, which aren’t being adequately managed at present:

  • Aggressive alien organisms are getting into New Zealand waters, and are being spread by boats around our coasts
  • There are serious unintended impacts on ocean biodiversity from fishing activities, especially from intensive trawling of the seafloor
  • Estuaries, reefs and coastal ecosystems are being degraded through contaminated run-off and sedimentation, coming from uncontrolled land-based activities
  • The informal fishing sector lacks any real management system, and there’s a lack of any strong sustainability culture in sections of this sector
  • There has been inadequate allocation of fisheries resources to non-commercial purposes such as recreational and sustenance fishing, marine reserves and community-based management areas.

Obviously, setting commercial catch limits too high is another potential risk to ocean ecosystems. However, this risk differs from the five listed above in one key respect: a system exists to control this source of risk, a system which has proven itself capable of learning from its mistakes.

New Zealand’s quota management system has been effective in gathering better information and adjusting commercial catches downward when necessary. In key inshore fisheries, there now broad trends of fisheries recovery from the depletion of earlier decades. Changes to fishing practices being researched and implemented to protect seabirds and marine mammals have also made encouraging progress.

In these respects New Zealand’s fisheries management system appears to have performed better than other systems being used worldwide to manage fisheries. However it is capable of further improvement.

See our proposals on recreational fishing.

Download our report to the Ministry of Fisheries on environmental management.

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