Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!
Marine protection protects our future
Once viewed as vast and inexhaustible, our oceans are experiencing unprecedented human disturbances. Globally, we are witnessing a significant decrease in habitat quality and major declines in the abundance of marine fauna, with profound implications for people as well as nature. Are we prepared to accept this as the new norm?
The better option is to adapt our practices so that humanity can live in harmony with the marine environment. We know that functional ecosystems are the foundation for social and economic development. Well-managed protected areas, especially networks of fully protected areas, are considered a cornerstone of conservation. Their efficacy is enhanced substantially when they are representative of the biodiversity of a region.
In New Zealand our marine protection levels are woefully inadequate. Only 0.4 percent of our marine environment is in full protection. We have a responsibility to move away from the piecemeal case-by-case approach to decision-making and instead embark on marine planning, so as a nation we can determine what areas should be protected and what areas are more appropriate for economic activity. A marine protected area network in New Zealand is essential; it won’t solve all problems and resolve all conflicts (there will still be a need for sustainable land and water management), but it will go a long way to creating greater certainty and transparency.
Decisions we make today will have deep implications for future generations. Will we be judged as responsible custodians? We can leave a lasting legacy if we seize the opportunity to create an effective network of fully protected marine reserves that includes the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.