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!


Associate Professor John Leader, Honorary Associate Professor, University of Otago

Sustainability in coastal ecosystems

Until very recently, humans have viewed the oceans as an infinite and inexhaustible resource to be plundered at will for its products and used as a sink for all the detritus and effluent of modern living. However, we are now becoming aware that this is not the case.

Within the Marlborough Sounds, for example, a wide range of interests seek to maximize their individual returns from mussel farms, fish farms, scallop trawling and recreational fishing, against a background of tourism, dairy runoff, forestry and sewage disposal. There is plenty of evidence that these competing uses are incompatible. The productivity of the Sounds depends broadly upon provision of nutrients from current flow, combined with the input of energy from the sun. The efficiency with which this input can be conveyed up the food chain to manifest itself as ‘useful’ product is hindered or reduced by habitat destruction, sedimentation and ecological imbalance resulting from selective exploitation of particular species.

Can the steady state known euphemistically as ‘sustainability’ ever be achieved? Perhaps, but there are several prerequisites. Fundamental to reaching a quasi-equilibrium is knowledge of the Sounds, the ecology of the living things present and the dynamics of their interrelationships. To gain that will take time, money and expertise, all of which are presently lacking. Armed with the knowledge of the flow of energy through the system and its pressure points, it will then be possible to seek cooperation and collaboration between competing interest groups for all parties involved to mutually enjoy the resource for the indefinite future. That will involve concessions by all concerned, but a failure to achieve this will result in loss of this invaluable resource for everyone.

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