Unprofessional editorial

An open letter to Keith Ingram.

In your July / August 2022 issue of Professional Skipper you ran an editorial titled How important are marine reserves?. You made a bunch of incorrect statements that I thought someone else would correct but I’m told the latest issue does not include any retractions. I have corrected them here:

“Recent statements by prominent yachties Peter Burling and Blair Tuke on Behalf of Living Ocean calling for 30 percent of the Hauraki Gulf to be under marine protection by 2030 are totally ill-founded”

The organisation is called Live Ocean not Living Ocean.

The statement is well founded by the 30×30 goal and the Hauraki Gulf Forums 30% goal which would leave 70% of the Gulf for fishing.

You go on to criticise the marine reserve proposed for Northwest Waiheke without pointing out a single problem with the application. You also ask what this group has in mind. Here is the application.

You claim there was “secrecy” but according to this statement from the Friends of the Gulf the application process was in plain sight and far from secret.

[After submitting the draft application for the Hākaimangō – Matiatia Marine Reserve to the Director-General of DOC and simultaneously to the two Ngāti Paoa Trust Boards a month was allowed for their unlobbied consideration. FOHG then went public with presentations to the Waiheke Local Board, The Local Piritahi Marae, Hauraki Gulf Forum, neighbouring property owners, other community organisations both on and off-island and articles, letters and advertisements in the Waiheke local newspapers The Gulf News and The Weekender and widely published on social media, national news media and radio. Following 10 months of pre-notification consultation, the revised application was lodged, advertised in all the main centre daily newspapers and distributed with two months allowed for public submissions or objections. This drew 1,303 public submissions. 1,183 were in full support.]

“Charterboat catch data is hugely valuable in showing how productive the gulf is at the moment and what it was like over the past 20 years, which I suggest is very different to the negative assessments of the state of the Hauraki Gulf that the environmentalists typically publish”

It’s not logical to decide the state of an ecosystem the size of the Hauraki Gulf Marine park using a single source of data like ‘charterboat catch’. The state of the environment reports are required every three years under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act. They cover a broad range of indicators and massive data sets.

“Some recent nasty marine invaders that have adapted to our waters include the Asian paddle crab, the Chinese mitten crab, Stela clava. the Mediterranean tube worm. the Asian nesting clam, Caulerpa taxifolia and Undaria (Japanese kelp).”

There are no Chinese mitten crabs or Asian clams in Aotearoa / New Zealand, if you do find either of these species please phone Biosecurity NZ (0800 80 99 66) immediately.

You say: “Locking up marine areas won’t solve these problems” Marine reserves are more resilient to climate change impacts including invasive species because there are no gaps in the ecosystem created by overfishing. They can also help overfished areas recover after a pollution or climate event because they have more old animals that make a disproportionate contribution to recruitment. Here are some graphics I produced to explain the concepts.

Marine heatwaves are creating local extinctions The role of MPA's in climate change
It takes thirty six 30cm snapper to make the same amount of eggs as one 70cm snapper.

Let me know if you need more examples.

“Marine Protected Areas are not a fisheries management tool.”

I agree MPAs are a conservation tool, but MPA’s can also have fisheries benefits. For example this research from the University of Auckland and NIWA estimates that spawn originating in the small Marine Reserve at Leigh contributed “commercial fishery of $NZ 1.49 million catch landing value per annum and $NZ 3.21 million added from recreational fishing activity associated spending per annum” (Qu et al. 2021). The short term loses are offset by future gains. It will be interesting to see if Fisheries New Zealand take a long term view of the proposal in their impact assessment. I suggest you read this great article by Good Fishing which looks at the proposed High Protection Areas.

“The marine reserve legislation administered by DoC prohibits … the movement of vessels carrying flora and fauna through MPAs or reserves.”

This is inncorrect.

“An amendment to the Fisheries Act could provide for… the same result as Marine Reserves”

Unfortunately this won’t help as the agency has been captured by industry. One new tool we can use is the RMA which gives areas a break from fishing 10 years at a time. It’s disappointing that Legasea have not embraced the tool, which can stop bottom impact fishing once it is in discrete areas (for example ‘corridors’).

“We need honest, sound and reasonable leadership in this debate”

Agreed, if you want help fact checking any future editorials about marine biodiversity I would be happy to help.