The Green Party is urging Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker to commit to stronger ocean protection around Aotearoa and on the high seas while at the United Nations Oceans Conference in Portugal this week.
“The need to safeguard ocean health is too important for the global Oceans Conference to be a talking shop. We need to see urgent action at both a global and domestic level to protect the ocean health from the threats of climate change, deep sea mining, bottom trawling, and overfishing,” says Eugenie Sage, Green Party spokesperson for oceans and fisheries.
The UN Oceans Conference is expected to culminate with the signing of a political declaration recognising the need for greater ambition to address the crisis facing our oceans.
“Minister Parker will no doubt be telling other governments about the steps Aotearoa is taking to protect its oceans. But the reality is, progress is far too slow.
“Despite marine protected areas supposedly being a core part of the Government’s Oceans and Fisheries Work Programme, we have not seen a single new marine protected area established in Aotearoa in nearly five years, including the long promised and much delayed Rangitāhua/ Kermadecs ocean sanctuary.
“To our shame Aotearoa New Zealand is missing from the more than 100 countries which have committed to support a goal to protect at least 30% of the global oceans by 2030. A mere 0.5% of the seas which New Zealand has jurisdiction over are protected, yet the Government has no timeline or plan for creating new marine protected areas.
“Minister Parker is also allowing the harmful practice of bottom trawling on sea mounts to continue. Instead of recognising the overwhelming evidence about the value of these biodiversity hotspots and the destructive impacts of bottom trawling, and following other countries’ examples and banning bottom trawling on seamounts, Labour has simply established a working group to look at the issue.
“In other words, as stakeholders get together to discuss the steps that we all know must be taken, large fishing companies continue dragging their heavy nets and steel cables over fragile seamounts, destroying deep sea corals, sponges and the habitats of many other species.
“Similarly, the Government recently indicated that it won’t support applications to mine the seabed without a robust regulatory system. If it was serious about the oceans it could instead support a moratorium on deep sea mining around New Zealand and in the high seas.
“Most recently, the Government finally realised that the Fisheries Act enables the protection of habitats of significance to fisheries. But it has been nearly two years since the PM’s Chief Science Advisor first recommended using the Act to do this. The Green Party wants to see that work accelerated so habitats of significance for fisheries are identified and protected by October 2023, at the latest.
“The simple fact is that we are a Blue Planet and there can be no healthy planet without a healthy ocean. This week’s global Oceans Conference is an opportunity for Minister Parker to make clear that Aotearoa will take the bold, meaningful action necessary to help ensure the oceans are on a path of recovery.
“The Green Party will keep pushing until we have a comprehensive plan of action that will protect our precious oceans from industrial fishing such as bottom trawling, deep sea drilling, seabed mining, sediment runoff from land, plastic pollution and warming sea temperatures,” Eugenie Sage says.