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option4 address to Auckland Conservation Board

Thursday 11th December 2003

Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to address the Board.

Last Thursday I was privileged to attend the memorial service for George Mason - a truly great man who served us all throughout his remarkable life. Born on Great Barrier, George was a farmer, a returned serviceman, County Councillor , the first policeman on Barrier and for many, many years the dedicated and totally committed operator of Channel 1, Great Barrier Radio. He will be sorely missed by all of us who he has served so well for so long.

That experience last week certainly highlights the points we wanted to make today. When consulting with the public for a marine reserve proposal, we need to know “who and what is local?”

To simply define local as those who happen to be living nearby at a particular moment in time is nonsense in our opinion. It is an insult and a gross misjudgement to ignore those who obviously have so much history, affiliation and commitment to our country. We live where we must. Old age, ill health, schooling and employment opportunities ultimately determine where we settle at any one time. The crew who made the journey to Barrier last week are living proof that these people are well connected to the Island and even more so with the waters surrounding it.

No amount of whitewash regards the “Drop In” meetings and submission analysis will remedy the most fundamental failure on the part of DoC to adequately consult with the public.

Secondly, the Department can claim all the “cores of support” it likes but until they start listening to the public any measures to protect our marine environment will deliver less than optimum results.

The public are ready, willing and able to conserve and protect our environment. option4 are asking for the truth, an honest assessment of the risks, benefits and balance. No more than what you would expect from somebody asking you to give away what belongs to your children, grandchildren and their children. We do not have right to do any less for our future generations.

On several occasions we have discussed DoC taking the lead role in a strategic approach to marine protection. Alongside that we have offered to be an active participant in a plan to discuss and explore all forms of marine protection measures including customary Maori management tools. option4 are willing to use our networks to engage with the public in a meaningful and consultative manner. We look forward to being part of the solution to protecting our environment as we recognise the value in a healthy and productive marine ecosystem.

We would also like the Board to consult with the Department and advise if there is any truth to the rumour that DoC have purchased a high speed vessel for use at the Barrier. option4 would like answers to the following questions:

  • What date was this vessel purchased?
  • What was the cost?
  • What is its purpose?

option4 still await your response to the list of issues provided at the Board meeting of 28 August 2003. (see below).

Thank you for your time and attention today.

Trish Rea

option4 spokesperson

Extract from www.seafriends.org.nz

An introduction
Marine reserves were meant to be simple to understand and put in place. Protect an area from all human influence and it will return to a near-pristine state because nature can repair. The problem is that this is entirely true. What people don't realise is that fishing is not the only manmade threat and in recent times not the largest either. Even marine scientists are unaware of the changed circumstances in the sea. When you don't know that other very large threats remain in there, you are bound to make mistakes.

If your only tool is a hammer, then the discussion centers on where to put the nails.
(comment on the present state of the no-take marine reserves debate)

  • too simple a belief, public perception
    • The no-take marine reserve idea is so simple that it has taken hold in the minds of many. It needs very little education. To displace it with a more complex idea, is difficult and takes time.
    • The marine reserve is too narrow a concept for conserving (saving) the sea. We must look at all issues from human population to our needs and how to do things better. Education and self responsibility are also potent conservation tools. Read conservation principles and resource management on this web site.
    • Marine reserves (conservation) work where all manmade threats are removed. These places are no longer found along the coast of the main islands, but they do exist around remote islands. Hardly anyone knows this.
    • People do not understand the huge differences between land and sea. Even marine scientists are often insufficiently aware. Biodiversity/sea-land . Marine habitats intro .
    • People working with the sea understand the sea better than landlubbers. They are concerned. They must become the sea's guardians. They too need to learn more, and we can also learn from them.
    • The Government is confused. Fisheries must exploit the sea to the max to balance the Current Account deficit. The MfE doesn't care about the sea. DoC makes marine reserves for research now, but for biodiversity later (Bill before parliament). Protagonists want reserves to save fisheries. Others for an insurance. These conflicts must be resolved in the pending Oceans Policy which may end as just a discussion forum.
    • Very few scientists appear to be able to see the huge damage from degradation happening everywhere and how fast this problem is accelerating. They refuse to accept the facts and have no data.
    • Protagonists take the moral high ground, which is hard to oppose. It takes much courage to do so. Dr Robert Shipp's article . (The tyranny of the moral high ground)
    • Much propaganda and disinformation has been spread to promote marine reserves, even to our children at school. How can it be undone? Read Frequently Asked Questions on this web site.
    • Protagonists have spread fear about the state of the oceans, its fisheries and its future in order to gain political advantage. However, such fear of fishing is unwarranted because compared to the land, the sea is still in a relatively good state. Not knowing what to do, concerned landlubbers are seeking political action on fishing rather than on landbased pollution.
  • what is wrong at the top
    • The NZ Biodiversity Strategy (Marine) is flawed. It ignores the threats from the land completely. It assumes (without proof) that fully protected marine reserves provide the only solution to conserve biodiversity. This is false. FAQ .
    • Ten percent of the sea follows from 15-30% of land protection. This is false. FAQ . Others state that this is only the beginning, and that 20% is needed to save fisheries from collapsing. One cannot compare land with sea.
    • Ten percent implemented by 2010 is a mistake. There is no hurry. Education must also take place. Why cast our mistakes in concrete? We have so many marine reserves that have failed.
    • DoC and Government have been advised by protagonists who do not even dive. Armchair conservationists are misinformed about the sea.
    • It is wrong to harm others without compensation because of strong but false beliefs.
    • The Marine Reserves Act was a costly mistake, and so was the Marine Mammals Conservation Act. FAQ . The Fisheries Act contains all the mechanisms necessary for marine conservation of areas, habitats and species.
    • Worldwide the trend goes in the direction of Marine Protected Areas of all kind with marine reserves here and there. But even for this, our Marine Reserves Act does not have enough flexibility. It is obsolete and should be abolished.
    • Authorities falsely believe that land and sea should be managed in one hand because of a mysterious connection between the two. However, whereas the sea has hardly any effect on the land, the influence of land erosion on the sea is profound and it can arrive from areas far away from the sea. See Westcoast reserve proposal.
    • Those advising our Government believe we are in a race and that we should somehow lead the world in the number of marine reserves. This is a very bad reason for having more failed marine reserves. Instead of leading the world in mitigating land based pollution, we are leading it in soil erosion.
    • Since the Department of Conservation and local and regional government are bound to execute directives from Government laid down in law, marine reserves are now pushed hard by a well-funded bureaucracy, even in the face of overwhelming well-informed public opposition. It has become a senseless war.
    • The public is continually being harassed by an army of bureaucrats who are keen to legislate the people's rights away - without compensation. What will the world eventually look like? Obviously, this tendency must be halted. No-take areas, quotas, concessions, proof of guilt. It is now said that fishing is a privilege rather than a right. Is owning land a privilege? What about our rights as laid down in Common Law?
  • entering a world of scarcity
    • The main cause behind all our problems is overpopulation while nature shrinks. Regulation aims at dividing the cake while keeping some. The number of new regulations each year is accelerating, while most are ineffectual.
    • An army of people in Wellington is busy regulating our freedoms away and this gets worse.
    • The environment may become the biggest issue in coming years, absorbing large amounts of money, time and other resources. It may become unaffordable.
    • We must now look for solutions that deliver most bang for the buck. We can't afford feel-good solutions that do not deliver. Many laws and regulations must be abolished accordingly. We owe it to our children.
  • the cost not considered
    • The cost could amount to $100 million per annum in lost exports; 1000 families on the dole. 50,000 fishermen displaced, having to fish elsewhere. Sustenance fishermen are badly affected. If 20% is set aside, these costs will double.
    • There is no compensation. One group in society can take from another with neither redress nor accountability.
    • The cost/benefit has not been weighed against other solutions.
  • the benefits negligible
    • Most of the benefits of marine reserves just sprouted from ideas of protagonists. They are not real. Marine conservation .
    • Spill-over because the protected area contains more fish is negligible. FAQ .
    • Reserves are thought to produce more larvae but this has not been proved. Neither has it been proved that more recruits arise. The situation is more complicated due to the vagaries of plankton ecosystems, which are seriously threatened by land based pollution. FAQ . Dr Robert Shipp .
    • People espousing the thistle-down effect are not aware that marine organisms spawn 99.99% to make food in the plankton food chain, but 0.01% to reproduce. This planktonic environment is largely unknown. Scientists use computer models which suffer from false assumptions. FAQ .
    • The most important benefits are those to human visitors and a protected area's age structure (old fish). Marine conservation . Only places with clear water and good access can provide economic benefits.
    • Marine reserves do not fix the causes of our problems. They do not prevent over fishing. They work for small areas only. There are better ways.
  • marine reserves in the wrong hands
    • 10% of the sea ends up in the hands of the wrong people, managed by the wrong people who have no affiliation with the sea or understanding of it. FAQ .
    • International literature recommends local management but DoC won't relinquish control and the budget. Resource management , FAQ , Marine Reserves Bill 2002 .
    • DoC is excellent for managing land reserves. They should now become active in land preservation to save the sea. So should Forest & Bird. Why are they waiting?
  • Marine Reserves Act not flexible enough
    • The Marine Reserves Act was an unnecessary and costly mistake. Marine reserves of all kind (total closure, partial closure, customary fishing) can be created under the Fisheries Act, managed and policed by those who know the sea and frequent it.
    • Worldwide the trend goes in the direction of Marine Protected Areas of all kind with marine reserves here and there. Yet our Marine Reserves Act does not have this flexibility. It is obsolete and should be abolished.
    • Since coastal marine reserves no longer work, fisheries regulations will be the ones that work best. They address the causes of the problems. They work for all areas, not just 10%. Where no-take reserves are needed they can be combined with managed and lightly fished boundaries. Sustenance fishing by locals must be looked after.
  • poor timing
    • There exists no compelling evidence for haste. The fishing situation has not been getting worse rapidly. Instead, the Quota Management System is showing signs of stocks at sustainable levels. The 10% by 2010 mandate is hopelessly wrong.
    • The existing marine reserves have not been evaluated for their effectiveness for biodiversity (sustainability for all species). Instead research has focused on a few commercial species, measured with a flawed method (baited camera) FAQ . Otherwise DoC would have been aware that 2 out of 3 are not working ( reserves summary ).
    • The very large areas (3000km2) of de-facto marine reserves in ammunition dumps and cable ways have not been studied for their effectiveness as no-take marine reserves (of which there is only 150km2 around mainland NZ).
    • Instead of making priority with these de-facto reserves in their marine reserves proposals, DoC is proposing new and contentious areas.
  • poor management
    • Most of the existing reserves are inadequately marked and policed [1]. They do not reach their potential. Why have more like these? Get this right first.
    • Where compliance problems are encountered, this can be traced back to poor consultation and not listening to valid objections [1]. Local people have a wealth of knowledge to contribute.
    • Poor consultation is evident now in EVERY marine reserve proposed since 2002. Read the marine reserve proposals indexed above.
    • Although the whole world recommends local management as a prerequisite for success and compliance, DoC has explicitly ruled this out in the new proposed Bill. It will not hand over the management budget either. This must be resolved first.
    • The sudden and rapid creation of new marine reserves exhausts the resources of the public. It highlights the unfair difference in funding between the aggressor (DoC) and the victim (the fishing public). This is a poorly managed aspect of the of a so-called democratic process.
  • the new threats
    • Mud from erosion and sewage from animal husbandry and people cause the new threats in the sea. Erosion .
    • Mud and sewage release nutrients in the sea. The nutrients fertilise the plankton which blooms excessively, causing many problems. Erosion/sea . See diagram .
    • In moderation (natural amounts) this is beneficial for fisheries but when over nourished, problems occur. Read the Plankton Balance Hypothesis .
    • Mud suffocates when it settles on sensitive organisms, in calm places first. See diagram1 , diagram2 .
    • Combined with diatom strings and bacteria, mud can become very sticky, suffocating organisms even in more exposed places that are cleaned regularly by wave wash. In 1983 a dense plankton bloom of an otherwise harmless diatom species (Cerataulina pelagica) caused massive kill of water-breathing species from scallop to fish [2].
    • Poisonous cyanobacteria can be part of the 'sticky fluff', killing grazers like snails and sea urchins.
    • Dense plankton blooms take the light away from kelp forests, which can die over large areas. Survey93 .
    • Dense plankton blooms can become highly toxic, threatening the entire food chain including people.
    • Plankton toxins are highly poisonous, able to kill almost any animal and even plants.
    • Shellfish fisheries have been closed in 1993-1996, and 2003 due to such toxins. They are being monitored.
    • Major fish mortalities have occurred, playing havoc with fisheries management models. Of many fish stocks the models now correct for 'unaccounted losses' amounting to several years of fishing effort (MFish). NoFish93 .
    • Before 1983 these problems were not noticeable. They are threatening now. Article .
    • New Zealand soils are very deep and sensitive to erosion. Soil NZ .
    • Raindrop impact damage on bare soil is our worst enemy. Diagram .
    • Torrential downpours have become common. Only these cause most of the soil erosion.
    • Our rate of erosion is 5-30 times what is natural, depending on soil type and slope. 300 million tonnes /year; 7 tonnes per person per year.
    • We are losing our precious soils as we are killing the sea and losing our beaches. They belong to our children. A triple stupidity.
    • Our economy and welfare depends on the conversion of sunlight to exports, both on land and in the sea. It is stupid to kill the hand that feeds us. SoilNZ . SpecialNZ .
    • In 1986 the subsidy on fertiliser was abolished. Hill country with most of our problem soils was no longer fertilised. Soil degraded and is now washing into the sea at an ever increasing rate. Map .
    • The number of earth digging and shifting machines is increasing rapidly. They are not left idle.
    • The situation is getting worse decade by decade.
  • good and bad years and the trend
    • There is a ten-year cycle, co-incident with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). The very large South Pacific Gyre comes to a standstill, causing hot oceans and coral bleaching in the west Pacific while the sardine fishery collapses in the east Pacific.
    • In the bad years (El Niño) the warm water currents from the north weaken. The seas around NZ become cold (-2º to -3 ºC) and dirty. Nutrients accumulate over the continental shelves. Plankton blooms more violently. These have become problem years for NZ. Graph .
    • What used to be three in thirty years has become four bad years in ten. 1981-84, 1991-96, 2002-??.
    • Shellfish closures, shellfish diseases, fish mortalities, fish diseases, recruitment failure, habitat collapses.
    • In the good (La Niña) years the waters are warm and clear (relatively). Foreign species catch a ride to NZ on strong ocean currents. Snappers spawn ten times more successfully. Habitats recover somewhat.
    • The problems started since the early 1980s. In 1986 the subsidy on fertiliser was abolished.
    • The trend is worsening. My estimate is 50-150% worse every ten years (Floor Anthoni).
  • flawed scientific research
    • The sea is unbelievably and unintuitively different from the land. If you don't know this, you will be uninformed. See biodiversity/marine and habitat intro . Even many (marine) scientists are insufficiently aware.
    • The sea is hostile and difficult of access. Waves and weather are always in control. We can be underwater only for one to a few hours each day. Compare this with tramping the forests, and it is clear that we have very little opportunity to become marine naturalists. In the warm clear tropical seas this gets better. Remember how much knowledge was gathered by ecologists who were also keen naturalists?
    • As a result, the marine ecology is largely unknown. The plankton ecosystems are also largely unknown.
    • With their limited general knowledge, scientists do 'controlled' ecological experiments from which they derive far-reaching conclusions, which often leads to nonsense.
    • Marine scientists do not have their own boats and are not free to dive any place any time. They must account for every hour to some budget. They have hardly enough time in the water to finish their own experiments. As a result, very few experienced marine naturalists are found among marine scientists.
    • Marine naturalists must be confident in diving, which takes the best of ten years experience. They must learn to see, remember and understand the functions of myriad sea creatures. After about 20 years one can begin to see how it all works together and how it degrades.
    • Marine research done in the lab is of high quality. But studying the ecology cannot be done there. Controlled experiments are seldom possible. The scientific method as defined by Francis Bacon fails there. Read Science, technology & human nature . A different approach is needed but not done (yet). FAQ .
    • Scientists cannot react to sudden events, changing the course of their studies. First a budget is needed, and someone must be found to pay for it. Time must be accounted for. As a result, many significant events have not been studied. Degradation has not been observed.
    • Studying degradation is not 'sexy'. It does not earn scientific admiration.
    • We have omitted monitoring the sea for its clarity and sedimentation rate. A network of simple sedimentation traps on all wharves and some buoys could have kept us up-to-date with the disastrous trends that have been with us for over fifty years, but which are accelerating steeply now. This has not been done. It is not even being considered.
    • Many marine scientists are politically motivated, having traded objectivity for their beliefs. Science funded by DoC is bound to give results pleasing DoC, much as that funded by the tobacco industry pleases its funders. One does not easily bite the hand that feeds . The DoC funded research cannot be critical of DoC.
    • Many scientists now earn their living from marine reserves. It has become a major source of income for many institutions.
    • A swarm of politically motivated marine 'scientists' is now involved with marine reserves, quoted as a 'growth industry'. They want marine reserves to work for the environment, science, fisheries, biodiversity and much more but they fail to see when and why these reserves don't work. Most of these scientists work with computers and models to make their point.
    • These 'scientists' do not take the precaution of distinguishing apples and pears, and uncritically apply findings about tropical reefs to the situation in NZ. Even here they do not distinguish the special nature of some spots on the coast. The area around Goat Island for instance, has always been a special place without equivalent. To compare other places with it must be done with care. Yet these 'scientists' do not exercise such care. FAQ .
    • Nearly all travelling protagonists for marine reserves are not frequent divers, having no personal appreciation. They are not marine naturalists. Yet their influence has swayed many and has been decisive for this Government's flawed policies.
    • Failure of marine reserves is almost never published. Yet about two thirds of 1306 surveyed MPA's failed to meet their objectives (Kelleher et al. 1995).
  • flawed marine education
    • Rather than teaching our children to think critically, they are fed a stream of propaganda by DoC about marine reserves, by MFish about fisheries, by the forest industry about forestry.
    • The flawed urchin barrens hypothesis , lacking any proof, is now taught at schools and university. How much worse can it get? Children are taught that feeding the fishes is bad , without balancing viewpoints.
  • bad news is bad
    • The Government spends millions of dollars each year to promote a clean and green NZ image. To say that we are in reality far removed from that ideal, could cost the nation dearly in lost revenue from tourism. Yet an ecological disaster of unequalled magnitude is looming over NZ.
    • Eco tourism, glass bottom boats, whale watchers and so on, are all dependent on the tourism dollar. They spread counteracting propaganda and step up their marketing and advertising. So how is the public to know the bad news?
    • For DoC the message that coastal marine reserves are no longer working is akin to death. They will not do what is right for us but what is right for themselves.
    • Marine reserve protagonists who have clamoured for their cause for large parts of their lives are not going to say 'we were wrong'. Instead they are stepping up their flawed efforts with more fervour.
    • The media do not like to press minority views, particularly when the news is bad.
  • what next?
    • Half the solution rests in recognising that there is a problem. Let's admit it. Let's say we were wrong. If that does not happen, a solution will not be forthcoming. It is necessarily the first step.
    • The marine reserves process
      • We must stop the marine reserves process before more mistakes are cast in concrete. There is no justifiable haste for marine reserves.
      • We must not ask ourselves just where to put marine reserves or how many but we must look at all issues because every issue that helps is therefore also a conservation issue, and this includes population, education and self-responsibility.
      • Then we must start at the top, removing all conflicts from an overarching Oceans Policy. MFish must be given the goal not to only produce more fish but to also act with more caution (is in the pipeline now). They should be made responsible for all marine conservation and reserves. New Zealanders should have first right to their country's bounties.
      • Most immediate benefit comes from more refined fisheries management with more local input and management.
      • Eventually the MRA and the Marine Mammals Protection Act must be abolished and acted upon from the Fisheries Act.
    • Over nourishment (eutrophication)
      • Soil erosion + loss of fertility + sewage cause over nourishment of coastal seas. It must be reduced from all of its causes. This is our main battle.
      • Sewage must be collected into coastal tankers and released far out to sea where nutrients are needed. Eventually we should be able to recycle it.
      • Farming methods must change to farm soil rather than sheep/stock/milk. We must not graze the grass too short. We must not overstock.
      • There should be less pressure on farming more from less land, which leads to over fertilisation, overstocking and loss of fertiliser/ fertility to the sea.
      • There should be incentives to farm marginal and isolated lands more productively and more environmentally friendly. There should be incentives to sustain healthy rural communitites.
    • Erosion and loss of soil fertility
      • Solutions won't have an overnight effect. We must above all learn to farm soil sustainably. Soil is our most precious resource, belonging to future generations and we all bear the responsibility to keep it in good health.
      • A farm advisory service must be established which is able to give FREE advice to farmers, and educate them about maintaining soil fertility, minimising erosion and how to get state help. It must also be able to take soil samples and maintain a national soil database.
      • As a temporary measure, the subsidy on fertiliser should be reintroduced for problem soils and hill country. (not for dairy farming) It is not about productivity but about soil cover. Some islands may need to be top-dressed in their entirety ( Great Barrier Island , Ruapuke I, Stewart I).
      • A financial incentive must stimulate the planting of trees and the fencing of sensitive areas.
      • There must be incentives to remove noxious animals and plants from our environment.
    • Coastal erosion
      • Financial incentives should see all of our coasts, mangroves and wetlands fenced and possums removed.
      • Many of our coasts need to be reseeded and fertilised to prevent imminent and already ongoing erosion.
    • Research
      • The direction of current research must be changed. We must start measuring degradation and aim our brains at how to mitigate the new threats. We must direct research to our largest problems first.

None are so blind as those who will not see

Just go over the above list again and ask yourself how it is possible that so much went wrong in the marine reserves debate. The obvious thing to do is to halt the whole process so that all fallacies can be ironed out and the right things done for the right reasons. We owe it to our children.


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