Seaweek celebrations, beginning on 3 March, provide an opportunity to highlight the plight of our precious marine species, Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage says.
“We’re incredibly lucky in New Zealand; we have an ocean area over 15 times our land mass and more than 17,000 marine species are found in New Zealand waters.
“But around 90% of our seabirds are in trouble including all our endemic albatross, mollymawk and penguin species, and a number of very rare petrels and terns. More than a quarter of our marine mammal species are declining.
Led by the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE) – Seaweek raises the profile of these threatened species and helps communities strengthen their links with the marine environment. This aim is reflected in this year’s theme – Toiora te Moana – Toiora te Tangata – Healthy Seas, Healthy People.
Ms Sage said Seaweek events taking place around the country – beach cleanups, competitions for schools, guided snorkeling, and public talks aim to increase public understanding and awareness of marine life and habitats and what’s needed for healthy oceans.
“Such measures include expanding New Zealand’s network of marine protected areas and reducing the impacts of human activities on marine habitats and species. This includes protecting estuaries from sediment pollution, avoiding plastic pollution of the oceans, and ensuring fishing doesn’t kill protected seabirds and marine mammals.
“Antarctica’s Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was established last December and I’ve asked the Department of Conservation to investigate establishing a marine mammal sanctuary off the coast of south Taranaki.
“By-kill from fisheries is a significant cause of seabird mortality, but we’re working hard to minimise this. A National Plan of Action to reduce seabird bycatch has been developed and New Zealand vessels are required to use bird scaring lines and other methods to protect seabirds,” Ms Sage said.
Seaweek is supported by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Foundation North and other organisations. The programme of activities for Seaweek can be found at www.seaweek.org.nz.