Ocean-roaming birds under threat
"Every year between 50 and 100 million longline hooks are set in the Southern Ocean
... lines trail behind fishing boats for up to 130km as they move into the most
far-flung waters in search of new fishing grounds ..."
9 October 2004
New Zealand Herald
Nets leave a trail of death in the sea
"It's quiet at the bottom of the ocean and dark where sunlight never reaches.
But illuminate it with artificial light and strange life emerges"
9 October 2004
New Zealand Herald
Axe taken to $300m hoki quota
"The Government has taken drastic steps to rebuild the deepwater hoki fishery,
slashing the allowable commercial catch by 80,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes ..."
24 September 2004
New Zealand Herald
Bill Brownell: Marine reserve won't make much difference to Barrier
"... local communities should focus on how to work with the Dept of
Conservation ... to make sustainable profits from celebrating
the beauty and diversity of marine life rather than killing it"
26 August 2004
New Zealand Herald
Fish expert sounds warning on stocks
"The future for global fisheries is not rosy ... governments should be setting aside
up to half of fishing grounds as marine reserves to ensure the future of sea life ..."
17 August 2004
New Zealand Herald
The conflict of mineral mining in a whale sanctuary
20 November 2005
Whales within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers more than 4 million
sq.km. of ocean, are protected from being killed by the harpoon under the Marine Mammals
Protection Act 1978.
There is no protection of whales from the impacts of anthropogenic sound generated by
shipping, seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration and mineral prospecting, exploration
drilling, and drilling, blasting and extraction of minerals.
The pursuit of these activities raises the issue of impact on whales migrating
along New Zealand's coastal waters where oil and gas exploration is active, and
the seamounts of the Kermadec Ridge where mineral prospecting is being carried out.
Whales are presently protected in the very south of the Pacific Ocean and the Southern
Ocean from commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1994.
It covers all waters surrounding Antarctica, northwards to latitude 60deg South
in some regions, and to latitude 40deg South in the New Zealand region. The sanctuary
protects feeding grounds of 75 percent of the world's whales.
A second whale sanctuary has effectively been established - not by the IWC - but by whale
protection legislation of 12 South Pacific states and territories, covering a continuous area
of 12 million sq.km from Australia to French Polynesia. The effective sanctuary stretches
across the entire EEZs of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu,
Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Niue, Cook Islands, and French Polynesia.
Much of the area provides winter breeding grounds in tropical waters for many whale
The New Zealand EEZ is a critical protected area for whale migration, linking the Southern
Ocean Whale Sanctuary with the protected EEZs of the Pacific island states and territories.
With the exception of a small area between the northen end of the New Zealand EEZ on the
Kermadec Ridge, and the southern perimeter of Tonga's EEZ, the migration path is protected
from commercial whaling. Protection extends through the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
to its northern boundary at 40deg South latitude, which is in the region of the southern
North Island, and through the northern half of the New Zealand EEZ.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation and Management of Cetaceans and
their Habitat in the Pacific Islands Region
New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings.
International obligations ........ New Zealand, a 1946 founding member of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC), when there was an active domestic whaling industry,
is now regarded as one of the staunchest advocates of whale conservation. The Department
of Conservation was a strong supporter of the Commission's establishment in 1994 of the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which includes all of the New Zealand exclusive economic
zone south of 40¡S. The department leads New Zealand's participation at the IWC's
Scientific Committee and is represented on the New Zealand delegation to the meetings
of the Commission.
The Department provides advice and, where necessary, representation at meetings of
international conventions with an interest in marine mammals, such as the Convention
for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
New Zealand and Australia have made a proposal to the IWC for the South Pacific Whale
Sanctuary, which would incorporate the national whale sanctuaries of the twelve states and
territories, and other areas in 9 territories that are not yet protected.
The proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would extend from the equator to 40deg
latitude South, and from mid-Australia to beyond the Pitcairn Islands, forming a continuous
protected area from the equator to Antarctica.
Countries with whale-watching industries are interdependent on one another.
It is a well-established scientific principle that, to protect migratory species, it is
necessary to protect their breeding grounds as well as their feeding areas and migratory
routes. In this respect, the South Pacific Sanctuary complements and improves the effectiveness
of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
Seismic operations, such as the use of air guns in oil and gas surveys, may also disturb
the natural activities of these species. Great whales are especially sensitive while
mating and calving, their primary reasons for migrating to the area. Military exercises
involving sonar can also interrupt whalesÕ critical migratory and breeding patterns.
What we're hoping is that the coincidence we've seen of whales around sites where we've
got shallow volcanoes could indicate that there is actually enhancement occurring there
of nutrients, and therefore of plankton and the whole food chain."
The Scientific Committee views with great concern the impacts on large whales in critical
habitats from exposures to seismic sound impulses.
The Committee also concluded that evidence of increased sounds from other sources,
including ships and seismic activities, were cause for serious concern.
In respones to its concern over seismic operations, the IWC Scientific Committee has
established mitigation and monitoring protocols, which it commends to IWC member governments.
Effort should be expended on the global identification and monitoring of critical habitats
"Male humpbacks sing one of the animal kingdom's longest and most complex songs during
the breeding season, and the songs continually change in structure. After a break of several
months at the end of the season, they take up where they left off on their return to the
breeding grounds, and continue. Over time they modify their individual songs without ever
reverting to a previous song pattern. Annual changes in the song of humpback whales in
Tonga mirror the changes of song in eastern Australia, but with a year's time delay -
another eaxample of cultural transmission ..."
"The conservation of whales in the 21st
century", Department of Conservation
Access should be given to information on the timing, distribution, extent, sound source, and
sound source characteristics for past and planned seismic surveys carried out within the range
of critical habitats or potential critical habitats.
Descriptions and results of any marine mammal observer programmes or other faunal
observation programmes carried out in conjunction with previous seismic surveys.
The continuous acoustical monitoring of critical habitats on sufficient temporal and
spatial scales in relation to pre- and post seismic activity.
That same year, adult humpback whales were reported to have stranded in unusually high
numbers along Brazil's Abrolhos Banks, where oil and gas surveys were
Studies suggest that critically endangered western Pacific grey whales were displaced from
important feeding grounds and exhibited behavioral changes in response to seismic surveys off
Russia's Sakhalin Island.
Other marine mammal species known to be affected by airgun arrays include sperm whales, whose
distribution in the northern Gulf of Mexico has been observed to change in response to seismic
operations; bowhead whales, which have been shown to avoid survey vessels to a distance of more
than twenty kilometers while migrating off the Alaskan coast; and harbor porpoises, which have
been seen to engage in dramatic avoidance responses.
Although most research to date has been devoted to marine mammals, seismic exploration
is a problem whose impacts affect a wide range of species, including sea turtles.
Loggerhead turtles have been shown to alter their swimming in response to airgun noise,
and there is concern that intense noise may drive them and other species to the surface, where
they are more vulnerable to ship strikes and predation.
Given their swimming patterns, the amount of time they spend underwater, and the difficulty
of spotting them from the deck of a seismic ship, it is also feared that these species would be
exposed to the highest levels of sound.
In January-February 2004, over thirty endangered sea turtles washed up on the beaches of the
Yucatan, Mexico, following seismic testing conducted by PEMEX, suggesting that, like marine
mammals and other species, sea turtles are driven to strand by intense anthropogenic
Impacts on commercial species of fish have also been shown. In one series of studies, it
was demonstrated that airguns can cause extensive and apparently irreversible damage to the
inner ears of pink snapper - damage severe enough to compromise survival - even at exposure
levels that might occur several kilometers from a
Other studies suggest strong behavioral reactions. In Norway, for example, catch rates of
cod and haddock fell dramatically (between 45 and 70% in the vicinity of an air gun
array, affecting fisherman across an area nearly 5000 sq km in size, and did not recover
within five days after operatons ended.
Researchers have also begun to investigate the impacts of seismic on invertebrates.
According to one current study, two multiple giant squid strandings off the coast of Spain
appear to be linked spatially and temporally to the use of air guns there; the squid showed
lesions that have never before been seen in the
Meanwhile, a preliminary report out of Canada suggests that airguns can physically injure
snow crabs. Studies such as these have begun
to outline the dimensions of the risk that seismic work entails.
It is clear that seismic surveys risk widespread injury and disturbance of diverse marine
species, from the largest whales, to dolphins and other marine mammals, to numerous species
of fish, to invertebrates such as squid and crabs.
Countries can and should work to ensure that seismic exploration surveys in their waters
are conducted in ways that lessen these harms.
The diversity of whales around New Zealand coasts
The New Zealand public has a great fondness for half of the world's 80 species of whale, and
the highest number of beaked whales, that can be found around the coasts of New Zealand.
This impressive group consists of 30 species of toothed whales including 10 dolphins and a
porpoise, and 8 baleen whale species.
New Zealanders took great pride in the strong position the country took at the IWC meeting
in June 2005, in opposing Japan's unsuccesful attempt to end the embargo on commercial whaling,
and to double its kill to 900 minke whales, and add 50 fin and 20 humpback whales, for alleged
The Minister of Conservation Chris Carter said the IWC vote "... means that Japan has no
moral authority to go whaling in the southern ocean ... it is a statement that the majority
of countries at the IWC do not support scientific whaling ..."
The Minister says the IWC is in need of a major overhaul, because there is no disputes
resolution process, and no penalties for countries that break the rules.
TerraNature has addressed the need for protection
of seamounts, legislation to regulate all uses in the EEZ, and to stop mining in locations
with potentially invaluable ecosystems in a letter to Prime Minister Helen Clark.
|United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
Coastal States have the obligation under the United Nations
Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect and preserve the marine environment.
The Convention recognises the sovereign right to exploit natural resources,
but adds that it is pursuant to environmental policies and in accordance with the duty to protect
and preserve the marine environment. It is clearly apparent that mineral mining of the deep
seabed is proceeding without any established New Zealand marine environmental protection policy.
UNCLOS goes further in stating that measures shall
include those necessary to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems. Neptune
mining operations target sulphide deposits on seamounts and around hydrothermal vents.
These habitats must surely be regarded as rare and fragile, because
of their dynamic nature as centers of irradiation of species towards virgin seabed areas,
ancient coral forests, a high rate of endemism at separate locations, and extreme environments
containing organisms that live in temperatures of 30-80degC.
TerraNature Trustee Dr David Given points out that "one way of
looking at such deep-sea areas is to regard them as the marine equivalent of Antarctica".
"Just as New Zealand has been a major player in both the formation of the
Antarctic Treaty system and the minerals extraction moratorium for the Antarctic, so there
is opportunity for New Zealand to ensure that this last great frontier for science and last
great wilderness area - the deep sea systems - is protected as a unique asset for future
generations and because of its unique intrinsic worth".
|United Nations identification of conflicting uses on seamounts
There is worldwide concern for the protection of seamounts that goes
beyond prospecting and mining.
The issue of conflicting uses was addressed in the UN
Secretary-General's annual report to the 58th session of the General Assembly, which called
for the need to clarify aspects of the regime for marine science research (MSR), including
the distinction between pure and applied science, and how to address marine genetic resources.
The report highlighted conflicting uses of the deep seabed between
pure MSR, mineral prospecting, bioprospecting, and conservation. The annual report to
the 58th General Assembly in 2003 identified MSR as a specific threat to hydrothermal vents.
These environments are that sensitive that excessive sampling is
regarded as harmful.
Government designation of marine reserves
In 2001, the Labour government established a goal of putting 10 percent of New Zealand's
ocean area, including the territorial sea and the EEZ, within marine protected areas by 2010.
A total area of 760,368ha in 16 marine reserves was established in the territorial sea
before Labour's policy from 1974 until 1999. Following that period, and since Labour's
announcement of its 10 percent goal in 2001, only one 690ha reserve has been established by
order in council.
Another three reserves covering 534,000ha have been approved by the Minister of Conservation,
but await the approval of other Ministers. No reserves can be designated in the EEZ until
passage of the Marine Reserves Bill which was introduced into Parliament in 2002.
This poor performance record of meeting marine reserve goals, reflects
the difficulty different branches of government appear to be having in working together to meet
common ocean management goals.