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World's largest EEZ marine conservation measure proposed

Ministry of Fisheries New Zealand - News release

14th February 2006

"An unprecedented win-win for conservationists and fishermen," is how Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton describes the development of a draft accord between the Minister of Fisheries and New Zealand deepwater fishing companies.

"Industry leaders have agreed to close more than thirty percent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to bottom trawling and dredging," Jim Anderton said.  "I congratulate the industry for this and strongly support their initiative.  It is a bold move, and indicates their foresight and willingness to work with the Government in looking after New Zealand’s marine ecosystems and habitats."

The draft accord proposes to close some 1.2 million square kilometres – almost one third of New Zealand’s EEZ - to bottom trawling and dredging.  When added to New Zealand deepwater areas already closed, the proposed closures would mean that 42 percent of seamounts in New Zealand waters will be protected.  This would be the largest single marine protection measure ever proposed within a nation state’s EEZ.

The proposed closures would extend from the Subantarctic waters south of Campbell Island to our Subtropical Kermadec region.  They lie across a range of depths, and cover a range of habitats that broadly represent New Zealand offshore waters.

"These areas have had little or no bottom trawling or dredging in the past, so we expect their ecosystems and habitats are relatively intact," Jim Anderton said.  "The extent of these proposed closures means they will go a long way towards meeting the offshore objectives of our recent Marine Protected Areas policy," Jim Anderton said.  "In this, they represent a win for both conservationists and fishermen."

The Marine Protected Areas Policy was jointly developed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation, and aims to create a network of marine protection across New Zealand’s territorial seas and EEZ.  The network will include representative examples of marine habitats and ecosystems, as well as special places that are considered outstanding or rare.

"Our next step is to run a public consultation on the proposal, Jim Anderton said. “  We would hope to have regulations to implement closures in place by October 1st this year."

Jim Anderton said that if he finally agrees to the proposal he will "reserve the right to make further closures if significant new information becomes available that would materially affect whether the Benthic Protection Areas remain adequate and broadly representative of the benthic environment within the EEZ".

Jim Anderton says industry leaders have also suggested some bottom trawling and dredging closures in deep water areas beyond New Zealand’s EEZ.  He says these proposals can be progressed either through interim measures, or the new regional fisheries management organisation that will cover that area.

"This proposal will allow substantial progress in achieving the Government’s marine biodiversity protection objectives in the offshore waters and demonstrates our industry’s enterprise and responsibility in being willing to take pro-active steps to preserve the capacity of the marine environment from which they harvest", Jim Anderton concluded.