A blueprint for saving our seas
An outline of goals for the Seafriends Foundation and Society
(please note that this document has become obsolete, overtaken by events and progress (2009))
This working paper serves to outline Seafriends' plans for saving our seas. Not only does it contain simple steps for making the Seafriends organisation work, but it also contains ambitious plans that may take a lifetime to realise. I have confidence that many conscientious people will join this organisation and give it their best. It will not be a matter of cost and how much it will benefit ourselves but rather what kind of world we wish to leave for our children. It is my belief and conviction that we can and should make a difference. Time is running out but we can enjoy the progress we make during our lifetime. Our country can become the envy of the rest of the world, if only we want it to be!
As this blueprint shows, an enormous amount of work needs to be done by many people. The Seafriends organisation is necessary and indispensable to bring people, bureaucracies and business together to pursue the shared goal of saving our seas and to debate the issues thoroughly.
Although informed debate is critically important, the Seafriends philosophy requires also doing something, to make a start, rather than just talk. We are not interested in telling people in other countries what they should do but we will turn words and ideas into action to save our own seas.
Many of the statements and observations in this paper are of cutting edge and scientists could easily be tempted to comment that they 'have not been proved'. I hope that knowledgeable people can instead, provide evidence and proof in favour or against or point us in the right direction.
Dr Floor Anthoni, Leigh, 15 May 1997
Seafriends: three entities, three purposes, one goal
|Introduction and Summary
Located in the South Pacific and surrounded by an immense ocean, New Zealand is unique in many ways. With its population of a mere 4 million people, it is located far away from the problems surrounding population centres in the northern hemisphere. We like to think of our country as a 'green and clean' country with a better chance to stay that way than any other.
However, since the early eighties, our coastal seas have developed problems. Shellfish fisheries such as for oyster, scallop and mussel are closed frequently due to toxic algal blooms. Our coastal waters are becoming dirtier and many species are disappearing from many places. Our fertile lands are washing into the sea at an alarming and increasing rate and it won't take long before there's little left to pass on to posterity.
In 1990 the idea of the Seafriends movement to save our seas was born. From entirely private and inadequate funds the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre was built in Leigh inside a disused woolshed. It opened in January 1993. The centre would demonstrate that it could survive on a commercial basis and pay its way. Although 'saving our seas' looked like an almost impossible task, the centre showed that this task could be started, a small step at a time.
This blueprint for saving our seas was compiled when we created the Seafriends Foundation and the Seafriends Society, a structure necessary to bring all sectors of the community together to solve the immense problems before us. The Blueprint shows all those who are going to join this movement, where we are heading to and that no problem is too big not to be tackled. If it looks like a lot of work, consider for a moment that the Seafriends movement is ten to twenty years too late so there's a lot more work to be done in order to whittle away that backlog.
Chapter 1 sets out how the Seafriends organisation is structured to meet the needs of a country-wide volunteer group.
Chapter 2 introduces the reader to what needs to be done on marine education. Education is one of the most important aspects of our activities. Education is necessary on all levels, to introduce new ideas, to raise discussion, to provide awareness and to canvass support. Many of the projects suggested in this report require a great deal of education.
Chapter 3 gives a new approach to marine conservation. Our existing marine reserves have many shortcomings that could have been avoided. By studying these and moving in a different direction, existing, proposed and new marine reserves could be improved considerably.
Chapter 4 sets out how a network of monitoring stations can be serviced by volunteers and what enormous benefits can be reaped. Indispensable for assessing liability after an oil spill, the network will also provide long-term trends, early warnings and a measure of progress.
Chapter 5 suggests that our research dollar can be spent in a better way. NZ needs to spend more on researching its huge ocean potential. Environmental studies need to be more concerned with the workings of aquatic ecosystems. An emergency research fund should be created to allow scientists and volunteers to respond to sudden environmental events such as cyclones, sea temperature changes, sudden fish deaths and so on.
Chapter 6 defines the most critical threats to our seas and what to do about them. It suggests short and long-term solutions that challenge our values and ways of thinking. It is likely to take many years before measurable progress can be made in this field.
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Seafriends: three entities, three purposes, one goal
The Seafriends organisation consists of three entities, the not for profit foundation, the society and the corporation. It aims to bring together all sectors of the community and the public. In this manner, everyone has a job and the work gets done. The main sectors of our society relating to the sea are politicians, governmental departments (DoC, MAF), research establishments (NIWA, Universities), educational institutes, marine professions, marine recreation, business people and the general public.
The Seafriends Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with the following purposes:
The Seafriends Corporation is a not-for-profit company that adds business skills to the organisation. The corporation’s sole shareholder is the Foundation. The Corporation’s purposes are:
|The Seafriends Education Centre in Leigh
The Seafriends Marine Education Centre in Leigh (about 90km north of Auckland in New Zealand) has been operating since January 1993. It has achieved the following:
|Taking the Seafriends concept to Auckland
Seafriends' Leigh education centre has proved that a strong need for a marine educational centre in Auckland exists. At the moment there is Kelly Tarlton's aquarium, which focuses on the spectacular but which is not specifically designed for education. There is also the MERC Marine Education and Recreation Centre in Long Bay which trains people in boating and mariner's skills.
The Seafriends concept, particularly its aquariums, lectures and displays, could be placed practically anywhere in Auckland because of its closed-circulation aquariums. It does not need an expensive waterfront site and neither does it need to be connected to the sea. It could be built on an affordable industrial site with good parking and access to bus routes. Close access to a beach and/or estuary is preferable to do guided beach studies but is not necessarily a prerequisite.
A centre in Auckland would primarily be intended for organised school visits. Pupils would typically visit the centre several times in their school years co-inciding with the subjects they are studying. In the weekends, evenings and on holidays the centre would be open to the public. Trained instructors would always guide groups.
The centres would provide for the following facilities:
Steering a country's future is very much like steering a ship: a course is set and maintained by comparing it with the compass. If the compass is flawed, steering the ship becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. If the compass is faulty and one knows it is, the ship can still be steered by other means but if one does not know, the ship will run aground. Likewise if essential information becomes corrupted, one cannot steer the country towards a prosperous future.
Unfortunately for the sake of political expedience, the truth is very often misrepresented. After a period of propaganda, it then becomes almost impossible to sell. The nation is cast adrift. Seafriends will vehemently uphold the most important resource of all, the truth. For the truth to emerge it is important to encourage and facilitate informed debate. Seafriends will actively take part:
- by providing channels for expressing informed opinion: Journal, Internet
- by writing articles in papers, magazines, our Journal
- by inviting input from all sectors and levels of the population
- by reacting to publications that are logically and scientifically flawed
- by researching and documenting and providing factual data
- by allowing whistle blowers and controversial opinions to be expressed
Every organisation needs a magazine to communicate to its members and to the world outside. Few non-scientific magazines dealing with nature and the sea exist in NZ: New Zealand Geographic (6x), Forest and Bird (4x), NIWA's Water and Atmosphere (4x).
All three magazines aim for very high quality print and are very expensive to produce. We believe that a niche exists for a monthly magazine produced in A4 size and with a more economical makeup. It would cover the following material:
Subscribers to the SF Journal would be found among:
In the past thirty years many underwater photographers have taken pictures of the sea. Although some have been successful in publishing their photographs, most have not. A wealth of unique photographs lies hidden in private archives. These may reveal what was common at the time and what has disappeared since. This work, which is also part of our inheritance and our emergence from a pioneering origin, must be saved for posterity. Seafriends aims to achieve this in the following ways:
Marine education in the school curriculum
Within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, New Zealand has fourteen times more sea area than land. We are very much a maritime nation. However, education about this strange world is lagging far behind.
It has been Seafriends' policy to develop and provide the required resource material first, before attempting to make marine studies a curriculum subject. At the moment there is precious little resource material available about the world under water. But the intertidal, including the mangroves, is well documented.
We have learned that making a school resource requires a very special
set of skills. It is a slow process. It is expensive. In 1999 we began
producing a large and comprehensive resource on the Seafriends web site.
It is a project that will take almost a decade to complete, but it will
lay the basis of all education and action for conserving our seas.
|The new curriculum is a framework of learning outcomes
and how to achieve these. But there is no accompanying resource material.
As a result every school and teacher is rather busy in defining its own
methods, resources, worksheets and tests. It is a very time-consuming activity
and adds to the already stressful schedule of teachers. In the old days,
a textbook was used. One started at chapter one and proceeded along. It
was a simple method, tried and proven and it followed logical stepping
stones, the next one building on the achievements of the ones before. It
was efficient. Now the textbooks have been abandoned. Students end up with
a confusion of poor quality handouts. At the end of the year they don't
know how to study for their exams.
We believe that when school resources are available in electronic form, teachers can 'click and compose' their own handouts with a minimum of effort. Being open and scrutinisable, the Internet resource invites for valuable feedback and will be improved quickly. It provides a focus in the confusion that now exists.
Because the Internet will save the education community millions of dollars in lost time and stress and because costs cannot be recouped, we expect major support from Government Departments.
|Support for Science Fair projects
Every year, high school students are offered a chance to do scientific projects and to submit them to the annual Science Fairs. Regionally selected winners eventually compete on a national level. The Science Fairs aim to promote science. Unfortunately because the sea is difficult to get to, few projects are done on this topic. Seafriends wishes to encourage marine projects in the following ways:
New Zealand has its own nature film industry (The Wild South). It makes movies for the world at large and consequently works with rather large budgets (over $100,000 per half-hour). We need to show our fellow countrymen what our seas are all about, but on a lower budget. Movies that show how our seas work and what lives there, are able to drum up support and are educational and entertaining as well. We also need to be able to make training movies about standard research and monitoring techniques.
Dr Anthoni has in the course of some 2000 dives collected some 60 hours of quality underwater movie, documenting the seas around us, historical moments as well as the unnoticed disasters of the past few years. Our seas are surprising and delightful. Each organism has its own magical capabilities, which it developed in the same time that humans evolved. The interaction between organisms and the many ways they have learned to cope is fascinating. These films are awaiting completion and need financial help. The movies will be available on a professional TV medium as well as on standard VHS or DVD. It is intended that the movies will be able:
In the late 70s and early 80s divers and others thronged to the annual 2-day 'Oceans' conferences. However, interest waned and the annual conference became uneconomical. Diving had changed from being an amateur activity to a professional one. It co-incided with diver training being taken over by PADI and the dive shops. Diving became a tourist activity, on a par with jet skiing, bungi jumping, parasailing and river rafting. Interest ironically reverted to crayfish and scallop bagging.
Seafriends invites divers, amateur fishermen and others who work with or recreate on the sea, to give their pastime a deeper purpose; to have fun while at the same time contributing to a better future for all. The Conferences aim to bring contributors together and to bring enthusiasm to what they do. It may attract prospective members. The conferences are also manifestations of our progress and offer opportunity to learn from the many professionals in our country.
Unlike the annual NZ Marine Sciences conferences, which are highly academic
and crammed with presentations, the Seafriends Conferences will be more
inspirational and instructional and there will be workshops for learning
techniques and theory. They should be educational at a level that ordinary
people can enjoy.
|Presence on the Internet
The Internet has become a valuable asset for schools and will be most valuable for the Seafriends movement. The Internet is a valuable resource for finding information. It is also a good place for publishing information. One of this country's problems is that its population base is so small that books cannot be printed in sufficiently large batches to be economical. Consequently, many good ideas can not be published at all. Also once a book has made it, it rapidly goes out of print again. Particularly, books containing colour photographs are very expensive to print in small batches.
The Internet by contrast, makes publishing affordable. Colour pictures can be included at little extra cost. Information is kept uptodate and the user can select what he or she needs. An Internet publication never needs to go 'out of print' and it can keep growing.
The Internet is also a good medium for staying in touch, for conducting conferences, for opinions from users, news items and much more.
A web site grows slowly but steadily and becomes ever more valuable. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make moneyfrom an Internet web site.
The Seafriends web site should provide:
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Marine Reserves in general
Several marine reserves have been created since the first one near Leigh. Most if not all marine reserves suffer from essential mistakes. Reserve areas are typically proposed by a local group and then endorsed by the Department of Conservation. DoC then provides the scientific justification and initial studies. DoC also carries the proposal to parliament where it is cast in law. DoC then maintains the reserve.
Some people think that any marine reserve is better than none at all but we dispute this. Firstly, every ill-conceived marine reserve prevents the creation of a better one in that area. Furthermore, reserves are but one of the tools for protecting the marine environment. Rather than creating high numbers of marine reserves, we should ask ourselves first what the problem is and then use the most appropriate tools as solutions.
Although marine reserves have been created for over 25 years, they have never been studied or monitored sufficiently. DoC claims not to have any money for it, and it is true that DoC is grossly underfunded. We believe that some of DoC's tasks can be done more efficiently by an organisation with many volunteers and low overheads. In order to do so, we need to cooperate closely with DoC. It is going to be of benefit to both.
A separate stream of funds is sought, originating from the Public Good Science Fund, the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation. Supplemented by funds from elsewhere we would be able to give a new direction to the marine conservation effort. These funds are managed by the Seafriends Foundation to fund scientific and other activities relating to marine reserves. In this manner the public has a way to contribute and to set priorities.
Present marine reserves have some or all of the following shortcomings:
|As a marine reserve succeeds, its value measured in fish stocks alone, becomes irresistible to poachers. Even one trespasser can cause many years of damage to an established reserve. Half a reserve is no reserve. Hence, constant surveillance is needed. A manned station with radar and radio is required, but such a station is affordable only when the reserve is big and valuable enough.|
Seafriends will move the marine reserve concept from 'no-take and it costs nothing' to 'pure wilderness area (paradise) and it will cost us dearly'. Only such areas are worthwhile passing on to our children.
We would like side-scanning sonar to be tried to map the marine reserve
areas in three dimensions and to provide working maps for marine monitoring
and studies, and for the public.
|Enlarging existing reserves
Instead of having many small marine reserves, one could be better off with fewer but bigger ones. From studies of land reserves, it has been established that the bigger the reserve, the more species are protected by it. Species who migrate far afield, however, will always miss out.
Most of our marine reserves so far have been created to please people
(scientists, divers, and educators). These reserves are small and are located
in popular places with good access, but they suffer from major shortcomings.
The Goat Island marine reserve is a point in case.
|The Goat Island marine reserve (Cape Rodney to Okakari
Point marine reserve) is very successful, judged by the 120,000 visitors
annually. Judged by its inhabitants, the story is quite different. Although
crayfish have become more numerous, other species have not (blue maomao,
trevally, demoiselle, marblefish). Some have even disappeared altogether
(northern red scorpionfish, northern conger, bearded mussel, various sponges).
This very first marine reserve suffers from the following shortcomings:
The sheltered Mathesons Bay could be made a marine reserve. At present it has been fished out completely, which would reduce the number of objectors. Mathesons Bay offers very nice snorkelling opportunities and is used regularly by dive schools. Once people start feeding the fish here, large numbers of kahawai, jack mackerel, sweep, parore and yellow-eyed mullet would come in, unlike the Goat Island reserve that attracts mainly blue maomao, snapper and parore. With Mathesons Bay as marine reserve, the Goat Island marine reserve could be extended South to include the beautiful Leigh Reef and Panetiki Island. It would add three new habitats to the reserve area: the sheltered reef, the outer reef and an enclosed harbour.
The biggest threat to the Goat Island marine reserve comes from the Pakiri River, just West of it. During big rainstorms it deposits copious amounts of mud into all reaches of the reserve. The mud deposited by cyclone Bola took seven years to wash away. It took equally long at Mathesons Bay which is threatened by the little creek running into it. If we want to save these reserves, something needs to be done about the rivers' catchment areas. Fortunately these are really small and could be treated as a 'pilot' study for ways of improving coastal water quality elsewhere. We believe that this project has a very high priority because good research facilities are nearby and the area involved is relatively small. It also involves the very first marine reserve of NewZealand.
|Promoting new reserves
Seafriends will propose marine reserves in localities that have been chosen with care. For instance the area around Cape Brett is one that deserves urgent attention.
|It has been observed that the pollution from Auckland
drifts along the West Coast north and dips around North Cape to travel
south again. Here it is at present destroying the once beautiful and pure
Parengarenga and Houhora Harbours. In time this destructive influence may
travel further south to take Mangonui and even the very rich Whangaroa
Likewise Auckland's effluent travels North along the East Coast where it has destroyed Long Bay, chased dive instructors away from Whangaparoa's Army Bay and is now threatening waters as far north as Leigh.
However, there is an overlooked coastal area, somewhere in the geographical centre. It is the area directly around Cape Brett and immediately south of the Bay Of Islands. Preliminary observations have shown:
|Supporting other reserve initiatives
A number of marine reserve proposals are in the pipeline. Several of
these threaten to create reserves with many shortcomings. No doubt, the
Seafriends organisation will develop a valuable knowledge that will be
brought in to support existing proposals. Ironically, the best that could
be done now is to halt all reserve proposals temporarily until existing
reserves have been evaluated for their effectiveness, and the causes of
their failing recognised. We have evidence that existing reserves suffer
unnecessarily from design mistakes. It makes no sense to continue along
this failed path.
|Antarctic and Sub-antarctic marine reserves
High priority is desirable for creating marine reserves in unspoilt and remote areas, particularly before they have been 'discovered'. Why should the entire world be subjected to the follies and greed of present generations? The Southern ecosystems may seem abundant but are they robust enough to support 'sustainable' exploitation? The Kermadec Islands marine reserves have proved to be successful and just in time.
Seafriends will fight for the establishment of substantial marine reserves
in unspoilt areas of all latitudes, including the pole continent. We will
support other watchdog organisations in monitoring the damage done to Antarctica
from exploration, exploitation and research. We will support the infrastructure
in aircraft and ships needed to enforce conservation.
Possums graze with devastating effect on coastal trees such as Pohutukawa. These trees that literally hold the soil on many of our steep shores, die in alarming numbers. Only by relentlessly controlling possums can we protect the shore vegetation. Also grazing causes our shores to erode too rapidly. Seafriends will champion for:
Our country should never have had problems relating to overexploitation. It is an indictment of greed and imprudent management. Seafriends will carefully monitor this process and contribute to improvements:
|Marine mammals and birds
Life for marine mammals and birds is becoming more difficult because of human encroachment:
It is our duty to protect these species as part of our commitment to preserve the biological diversity on Earth. Several organisations like DoC, Forest and Bird are successfully working towards this end. The species seeking protection are well covered by the media, unlike the most important group of species, the plankton.
We envisage that Seafriends may need to contribute little to our marine mammals and birds, although we will certainly contribute to informed debate and publication.
Marine mammals should be managed from an ecological perspective and less so from an emotional one. For instance, we believe that by protecting the very numerous Minke Whale, we make life much more difficult for the great Fin, Blue and Right Whales, since they compete for the same territories and food sources.
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When the Exxon Valdez floundered in Alaska, spilling a disastrous volume of crude oil onto an ecologically sensitive coastline, about a billion-dollar was spent on cleanup and research. After all that, it was conceded that hundreds of millions of dollars in marine research had been wasted, because no baseline data of before the disaster was available.
In New Zealand, every ship entering one of our ports contributes to a disaster fund, mainly for such disasters. We should learn from the Exxon Valdez disaster, by putting a coastal monitoring programme in place before a catastrophe occurs. Mainly funded by the above fund, it would not cost much but would be beneficial in many ways:
Monitoring is an activity that can best be done by institutions because it requires a long term commitment and does not yield glamorous results that justify visiting overseas conferences and filling scientific publications. Many types of monitoring are low-brow activities. They could be learned by conscientious amateurs. In this way the public could take part: fishing clubs, boating clubs, dive clubs, schools, environmental clubs.
Seafriends wants to encourage and help fund initiatives and provide
an umbrella organisation that would benefit all participants.
|Marine Habitat Survey
The English have done marine habitat surveys for years (SEASARCH), with many keen scientists. This has enabled them to take stock of their coastal inventory. Scientists have also been working at measuring underwater habitats with sonar.
Australia has just completed a State Of the Marine Environment Report (SOMER) which details and measures all known coastal habitats. Hundreds of scientists were involved and many millions of dollars. The report serves as a basis for political decision making.
"Clean and Green" New Zealand, however, lags far behind. What should we do? We are not that well resourced and we have so much sea. We don't believe that blindly following either the English way or what the Australians have done, is going to work for us.
We believe, however, that we should make a start in cataloguing our marine environments, first qualitatively and then quantitatively. It should dovetail in with the other activities mentioned in this blueprint by:
For the proper mapping of research, reserve and monitoring areas, Seafriends will make extensive use of aerial mapping using aerial photography. We rely on the help of many people and for them to be efficient and well informed, we see aerial photography as indispensable (see also next chapter).
|Tracking our past
Because NZ has done practically no long-term monitoring of anything at all, there exists no scientific data to measure the deterioration of our coastal waters. Only anecdotal evidence can give us an idea of where we are coming from. This record in turn is essential to measure the progress towards cleaning up our seas, for aren't we essentially planning to go back in time?
Much information lies hidden in captain's boat logs, fishing competition results and so on. Likewise the Department of Survey and Land Information may have untold gems of information hidden away in numerous photographs taken for the purpose of mapping. The time has come to unlock this information and to discover what has changed. The sooner we start, the more we will find, while the older generations are still alive to tell their tale.
From this effort we may be able to advise captains, fishermen and others, how to log their results for optimal scientific and historical value.
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Compilation of existing knowledge
For every project in this blueprint, departments and scientists may already have done some work, here in NZ or overseas. That information is often difficult to obtain, certainly by lay persons. It is necessary therefore, to spend some time surveying the knowledge field and compiling it into volumes that are accessible to all. Certainly in the beginning years, much effort must go into this activity. It is like finding out where we are. Knowledge compilations foster informed debate.
|Research for New Zealand
Although it is important that fundamental research is done, we feel that the research dollar can be better targeted. Too much research is done that is not fundamental yet does not benefit New Zealand. We believe that this could be improved if only the public was more aware of how the Public Good Science Fund is spent. The public deserves to get best value for its research dollar. We will:
Most of the problems we are experiencing worldwide are biological or ecological in origin. We fail to find solutions mainly because we understand ecosystems so poorly. The ecosystems of our oceans are so huge and involve so many organisms, that they cannot be studied in a controlled environment. Nevertheless, aquariums, the most sensitive of ecosystems of all, can be studied as controlled environments. Seafriends has been pioneering the creation of a fully closed marine ecosystem in only 3000 litres of seawater, without a connection to the sea and we will continue along this path empirically. Seafriends will encourage scientists to take up this challenge:
|Environmental emergency fund
In the past few years our oceans have experienced traumatic events such as:
In attempting to alert the scientific community to study such events, because much could be learned from these, we have been told:
Improved land management
Run-off from agricultural land is without doubt this country's number one problem. NZ is a 'young' country, being farmed extensively for less than a hundred years. From the way species are disappearing and conditions for good photography are becoming rarer, it appears that soil erosion has been accelerating in the past ten years. Precious topsoil washes into the sea, creating problems on the land as well as in the water. It is ludicrous to let this happen while watching helplessly. Possible causes of the rapid increase could be:
|Farming for topsoil?
NZ has many types of soil and conditions of farming. The flat farms in the Waikato pose problems of overproduction, whereas the steep hill farms suffer from heavy soil erosion and low performance. Climatic circumstances add problems of their own. However, in all cases it will be beneficial to look at farming from an ecological perspective. What grows on one square metre of farmland? Only fifty grams of meat, a kilogram of grass but hidden in the soil lives ten kilograms of fungi, worms, nematodes and more. So what are we farming? Beef or topsoil?
What does it need to farm topsoil? Plant matter, carbohydrates. Yet we let our livestock eat the lot, leaving too little for the soil, which needs it too. It is called 'overgrazing'. Overgrazed soils recycle wastes poorly and they are hardly capable of storing moisture. Nutrients are lost unnecessarily. A vicious cycle towards degradation and erosion sets in.
'Green finger' gardeners have known it all along: for good soil, one needs a lot of peat or sawdust or anything that contains degradable carbo-hydrates.
Likewise topsoil can be improved by mowing some grass for the soil. Mowing after grazing has been known to improve soil and production. Deciduous trees can be planted to add carbo-hydrate fodder to the soil. In the summer they shade the soil from the searing sun and they keep the winds off the grass, helping it to stay moist. In winter they let the sunlight through to heat the soil and to help the grass to grow. Other methods can be found and experimented with. In the worst cases, the land can be reforested.
New Zealand's coastal infrastructure of wharves, boat ramps and ports has very much been neglected. As a result, access to the sea and transport over the sea have been less than optimal. In remote and less developed areas such as East Cape and Westland, good access to the sea is of critical importance to welfare and wellbeing of its communities. In order to conserve our coastal sea and to be able to manage and monitor it properly, good access is important.
Seafriends will champion for improvements in all aspects of coastal infrastructure in all areas.
Effluent from the treatment of sewage is NZ's second biggest problem and in some places foremost. Treated effluent, rich in nutrients, is released along the shore where it travels with along-shore currents. The nutrients fertilise our already heavy plankton blooms which then become a nuisance and even poisonous. Shellfish fisheries now have to be closed, for long periods of the year. Yet only ten years ago, we would have believed that NZ be spared the problems of the populated northern hemisphere. So what is causing all this?
NZ is unique in that it has a large livestock population: 8 million cattle and 55 million sheep. The effluent produced by these would equate to a human population of between 40 and 80 million people! Our welfare level and wealth depend directly on this grazing population so it will remain a fact of life for us for the foreseeable future.
Problems are from time to time exacerbated by stagnation in sea currents (the El Nino cycle) that normally rinse the shores from pollution. Currents passing the populated centres of Australia, also feed into our near-coastal seas. Our fisheries have always benefited from this. But along the shore, it causes nutrient levels to build up past an optimal level. Our coastal seas become 'eutrophicated' occasionally, resulting in noxious plankton blooms. It is exactly here that we find our richest and most diverse marine communities.
Not only is the sewage disposal rate high near populated centres, but it increases much faster than the population (20 percent per year!). At the moment the Auckland sewage treatment facilities are being upgraded for a mere $350 million, which is only going to cause more stress to the environment!
While solving our problems with solutions from elsewhere, we should not be afraid to find our own solutions. With such an enormous volume of ocean around us, it makes no sense to treat our sewage, only to release its nutrients along our most sensitive shore. Why not ship the raw sewage (after pulverising and sieving) out to sea, using disused oil tankers? Here, 20 to 80 Km out in sea, where nutrient levels are almost nil, the sewage should be spread over vast areas. Its treatment and recycling will be done by the myriad of plankton micro-organisms, which throughout the history of our planet, have done just that.
Sewage tanker stations could be located inside safe harbours and further out in sea. Our wave regime is such that this is feasible. A small fleet of sewage tankers would be required to service all urban centres. Current treatment ponds are adequate for storing sewage to tide over very bad weather. Should a 'spill' occur, remember that today, one is occurring every day!
This is what needs to be done urgently:
In the past few years NZ has seen disastrous decisions on privatisation. Energy, waste and water are now so independent of one another that we may have forgotten that they all interrelate: for every person added to this country we need more food, drinking water, sewage treatment, refuse treatment and energy. Ironically, the ultimate solution to all of our problems may be found by bringing these utilities under one roof and designing a standard unit for a population size of say 250,000 people.
Located near an estuary and arable land (which could have been reclaimed), a power station would generate the required electricity. Waste heat is used to evaporate sewage water (done in Japan), to produce drinking water of high purity while being cheaper than what Aucklanders pay now (Arabia). The remaining heat is used for horticulture and aquaculture (marine and freshwater). The concentrated sewage is treated and used on the land and in hydroponics. Sludge is recovered and turned to compost in the refuse recycling department. The remaining effluent is used to farm oysters and mussels in the estuary. These filter the marine plankton, converting plant matter very efficiently into proteins. The sludge underneath these cultures is collected and reprocessed through the system or reused on organic gardens. The refuse collection site would involve a high degree of substance separation and recycling.
Because of its integration, benefits are reaped in all directions. By paying for electricity and water, users would automatically pay for sewage treatment and refuse processing. A similar ecological unit could be designed for inland locations, far away from the sea.
Marine farmingMarine farming provides a sustainable and efficient source of protein. Salmon is wasteful to farm because it is a predator, requiring a high level of protein intake, but it has a ready, profitable market. By contrast, all shellfish feeding from phyto-plankton, deliver the shortest food chain to protein (Sunlight to phyto-plankton to meat). Not only are oyster, mussel and scallop cultures economically profitable, but these creatures also remove nutrients from our coastal seas. They recycle our sewage effluent. For the sake of the future of our seas, we like to encourage marine farming of shellfish, by:
The potential danger of importing exotic species in ships' ballast water has received wide media attention recently but it is a problem of low priority. In all the years of cultivating New Zealand, many exotic and noxious pests have appeared on the land but relatively few if any have been noticed in the sea. Seas are naturally interconnected unlike land masses. Nonetheless, we should remain vigilant: