Tuesday, March 08, 2016

One ocean sanctuary is not enough

Today the government introduced legislation to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, banning mining and fishing in the entire EEZ around the Kermadec Islands. Its a good move, and one that fulfils the promise to protect the area that it made last year. At the same time, it highlights the government's glaring refusal to do anything else to protect our oceans.

The government is currently consulting on a new Marine Protected Areas Act, which will update our marine protection legislation and replace it with a coherent whole. Its a generally good move, but there's a hole: these marine protected areas will only exist within the territorial sea, the 12-mile strip of water around the coast. The government considered including the EEZ, but decided last June to exclude it, allegedly under pressure from the drilling industry. Their current spin-line is that its all too difficult to protect areas within the EEZ. And yet, right now, they're pushing a law which does just that. Which suggests that the problem isn't that its too hard, but that National simply doesn't want to do it.

The purpose of the Marine Protected Areas Act would be to ensure a representative network of protected areas. But a network which does not include our deep oceans, or only protects our sub-tropical ones, cannot possibly be considered "representative". One ocean sanctuary is not enough - we need the law to protect a greater range of our oceans, to ensure a fully representative network of protected areas.