Three huge marine reserves totalling 435,163ha are to be established in the Subantarctic Islands, Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson and Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley announced today.
The NZ Ministers’ decisions will see a marine reserve cover the entire territorial sea – out to 12 nautical miles – surrounding Antipodes Island, with two further marine reserves around the Bounty Islands and Campbell Island, covering 58 percent and 39 percent of those islands’ territorial seas respectively.
New prohibitions on Danish seining will be introduced in the remaining territorial sea around the island groups, ensuring the entire area – 688,548ha – achieves Marine Protected Area status.
Ms Wilkinson says securing marine reserves around New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands recognises how unique the marine environment in the area is.
“These islands boast World Heritage status in recognition of their international conservation importance and amazing wildlife. But what is less well-known is that this picture continues beneath the surface.
“Some of the most biologically-diverse marine communities in the world are found here and recent research shows that their diversity compares with locations such as the Galapagos Islands.
“The Subantarctic Islands are renowned globally and are a huge attraction for the burgeoning eco-tourism industry. Protecting the surrounding waters is sure to add to the prestige of this remote area.”
Mr Heatley says the results achieved highlighted the benefits of conservation and fishing interests working together to assess the merits of marine protection.
“The Subantarctics are a unique area and not currently widely fished due to their remote location. The prohibition on any future Danish seining is a sensible step.
“We have allowed for the continuation of long-lining for ling in some areas around the Bounty Islands, as this method is targeted and has a limited by-catch.
“There is also going to be a five-year window to allow for a potential deep-water crab fishery to be explored in the territorial sea beyond the marine reserve around Campbell Island.
“At the end of that period, it will be decided whether a crab fishery can be established or whether the entire territorial sea should become a marine reserve.”
The Ministers wished to thank the Subantarctic Marine Protection Forum, chaired by Buddle Findlay partner Paul Beverley, which conducted a tremendous amount of work consulting on and assessing the marine protection options.
When complete, the new marine protected areas will boost the area of New Zealand’s territorial sea that is protected to over 10 percent.