With loud fanfare, Minister Chris Carter announced the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Policy as an end to piecemeal conservation and confrontation. From now on local people will have a say on marine reserves in their areas as all protection options will be considered in a joint effort with the Ministry of Fisheries, while based on scientific criteria for biogeographic regions and habitats. But is this really what the MPA Policy is all about?
Dr Floor Anthoni, director of the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre in Leigh, who has devoted his life and life's savings towards saving the seas, brings a more sobering analysis: "It is really all about fast-tracking marine reserves while silencing opposition".
"What the country needs is an integrated approach and full discussion on the poor performance of marine reserves here in NZ, and on other problems", he says, "Marine reserves are no longer working because a new threat, that of degradation, is now eclipsing that of fishing. Fish stocks are now affected because they are not replenished as well as before, and this looks like overfishing."
"I am absolutely dedicated to saving our seas for future generations," he says, "but we need to diagnose the patient first before prescribing a cure. Scientists have not done this, so their advice is worthless. They have not even begun looking, so why are we in such a hurry?"
Some people think that Floor Anthoni is against marine reserves, but this is wrong. "We are stealing the rights and freedoms of people and their children in perpetuity, so we must make damn sure that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Marine reserves no longer meet this criterion. They do not provide tangible and measurable benefits here in NZ. They are a liability for future generations, but small reserves can be helpful for schools, divers and scientists."
"If we already have 18 failed marine reserves out of 18, why insist on having more?", he says, "And this policy is fascist (ideologically driven strong-arm government intolerant of dissent). The whole Department of Conservation can be best described this way. It is not democratic and fascism has no place in our country."
The new MPA Policy divides the 'war for marine reserves' over eighteen separate fronts up and down the country. Each division is conveniently split in two factions, the scientists making the proposals and decisions, and a working group which can only rubberstamp these. To make matters worse, the working group is represented by a majority of marine reserve advocates who vastly outnumber recreational fishers and Maori. The people who stand to lose most, and who also need to pay their own way, have the least say.
"It is not at all about consultation, it is not even about where to put marine reserves. It is all about fast-pouring ill-conceived ideas into concrete - forever. New Zealanders must wake up before it is too late. We owe it to our children."
For more information: Dr J Floor Anthoni 09 4735433, 021 2560756, floor(at)seafriends.org.nz
On the web: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/war/mpapol.htm
What's wrong with marine conservation in NZ: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/war/index.htm
Our sick seas: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/decay/
Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre, 7 Goat Island Rd, Leigh RD5.