MPA Questions and Answers
Who will be leading the implementation of the MPA Policy?
The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries are jointly responsible for implementing the MPA Policy. Other government agencies, local government, tangata whenua and stakeholder groups will also be involved in implementing the MPA Policy.
What are the steps in creating this protected area network?
The first step to implement the MPA Policy involved classifying New Zealand’s coastal and deepwater habitats and ecosystems. This has identified the range of habitats and ecosystems that should be represented.
Also, a “Protection Standard” has been set for the marine protected area network. This is the level of protection that allows habitats and ecosystems to remain at (or recover to) a healthy state.
Now that the classification and protection standard have been finalised, work will begin to identify sites that are already protected that meet the protection standard. Next, these habitat and ecosystem types (e.g. marine reserves, fisheries restrictions, cable protection zones, etc.) will be compared against the Protection Standard. If they meet it, those areas will become part of the marine protected area network. An inventory of protected areas will be up-dated regularly and be publicly available.
This inventory of marine protected areas will be compared against the range of habitats and ecosystems identified by the classification system, and the gaps in the network identified.
The process to fill these gaps will be initiated in each of 14 coastal biogeographic regions and will involve tangata whenua, marine users, and communities, and will be guided by advice from marine scientists. These groups will be given the range of habitat and ecosystem types to be protected in their biogeographic region, and asked to help identify and recommend appropriate locations and management tools that minimise impacts on existing users and Treaty obligations yet still meet the Protection Standard.
How will we classify habitats and ecosystems?
The classification process is designed to be robust, but also pragmatic and divides New Zealand’s seas using a progressive scale from large spatial units to smaller ones. New Zealand’s waters have been divided into areas within which exist a range of species and or environmental factors that are different from neighbouring regions – there are 14 coastal biogeographic regions which have different physical characteristics (e.g. ocean temperature).
The classification then describes 44 habitats that could be found in each of those regions; distinguished on the basis of factors such as substrate (e.g. sand flats are very different habitats to rocky reefs).
In implementing the classification system, the MPA Policy requires the MPA forum to ensure that “a marine reserve [is] established to protect at least one sample of each habitat and ecosystem type in the network. A range of tools may be used to protect further samples.” The MPA Policy suggests that the usual number of replicate MPAs (i.e. those that cover the same ecosystem type) will be two. This does not mean that a region will have 44 marine reserves. It is more likely that there will be fewer reserves which each protect a mosaic of different habitats. Principles of good reserve design would encourage the creation of fewer larger reserves, rather than multiple small reserves.
In addition, further marine reserves may be needed to protect any areas that are distinctive or rare, and therefore not picked up by the classification of “typical” habitats.
See the classification system document for more details.
What is the Protection Standard?
The protection standard defines the level of protection that is needed before an area can be considered an MPA.
There are three broad types of marine protection.
One is a “no-take” MPA, in which no extractive activities are permitted. In New Zealand, these are generally marine reserves. International guidance on marine protection emphasises that a network should contain at least some of these types of MPAs, as it is only within these areas that certain values are protected (e.g. the ability to measure natural mortality), and protection of biodiversity in these areas is more likely (if the legal protection is effectively implemented).
The other two types of marine protection allow some extractive or damaging activities (e.g. fishing, discharges, dredging navigation channels). These types of marine protection are termed “other MPAs” and “other Marine Protection Tools”.
All forms of marine protection (i.e. all three categories) are relevant when measuring progress towards the NZBS target and MPA Policy. However, only types 1 and 2 are considered to be MPAs for the purpose of the MPA Policy. MPAs may be created using Fisheries Act tools. Whether the tool in an individual circumstance meets the protection standard, i.e. creates an MPA, must be assessed on a case by case basis.
Marine protection will control extractive or damaging activities to levels that do not significantly alter the overall nature and functioning of the affected ecosystem or habitat. For example it may be acceptable to have some discharges of sediment-laden water from an outfall, but if sediment deposits were likely to change a shell-bottom harbour to a mud-bottom harbour, or prevent the survival of a particularly sensitive species of shellfish, then that discharge would clearly be inappropriate in a protected area.
More detail about what is required to meet each of these classes of protection is provided in the Protection Standard document.
What protected areas do we already have and how will we decide what new areas we will need?
We already have a collection of areas around our coasts and Exclusive Economic Zone that are protected by marine reserves and other restrictions like mätaitai and taiapure areas, cable protection zones, areas closed to certain fishing methods, and areas of significant conservation value (protected under the Resource Management Act).
Now that decisions have been made about the three types of marine protection that will contribute the MPA Policy (see above), we can start to determine what habitats and ecosystems are currently protected.
Those areas that are protected will become part of the protected area network. This list of protected areas will be compared against the range of habitats and ecosystems identified by the classification system, and the gaps in the network identified.
What management tools will be used to create new protected areas?
All protected area sites must meet the requirements of that type of protection as outlined in the Protection Standard. This could be achieved using a variety of management tools, either on their own or in combination (e.g. marine reserves, Fisheries Act regulations, and Resource Management Act requirements).
These tools must meet their primary objective under their legislation – for instance, the use of Fisheries Act regulations and closures must be consistent with the purpose of the Fisheries Act. In other cases, adequate protection may be achieved incidentally (e.g. cable protection areas).
Resource Management Act tools may be used to control land-based effects like unnatural levels of sedimentation and pollution. They can also provide a level of protection by special zoning of areas with significant conservation values.
What is a Marine Protection Planning Forum?
In each of the 14 biogeographic regions identified in the classification system, a Marine Protection Planning Forum (Forum) will be formed. Recommendations for new protected areas will be made to Ministers by these forums. Three to four forums will operate at any one time.
Along with tangata whenua, the Forum will be made up of representatives from various groups including commercial and recreational users, environmental groups, regional councils and tourism operators.
These forums will have the task of engaging with the local community and identifying a range of habitat and ecosystem types which require protection in their coastal marine Biogeographic region, and asked to identify and recommend appropriate MPA locations and management tools that minimise impacts on existing users and Treaty obligations yet still meet the MPA Protection Standard.
How do we decide where protected areas are located?
Where there is a choice of several sites, which if protected would add a similar ecosystem or habitat to the protected area network, the site(s) chosen should minimise adverse impacts on existing users and Treaty settlement obligations.
Where there is a choice to be made, among minimum impact sites, selection may also be guided by:
1) Accessibility for management and enforcement requirements
2) Benefits such as educational diving and tourism opportunities.
Further information on site identification and selection can be found in the Guidelines document.
Why can't marine protected areas be established for other purposes like tourism and education?
The purpose of marine protected areas under the MPA Policy is biodiversity protection. While secondary benefits, like tourism or recreational opportunities may occur, these must not interfere with biodiversity protection.
When siting marine protected areas, biodiversity protection will be the primary consideration.
The MPA Policy does not directly address protection of marine historic or cultural heritage, or protection for non-extractive use (e.g. diving) or values, tourism or recreational opportunities.
What about customary fisheries management tools?
A range of fisheries management tools may contribute to the marine protected area network, including customary fisheries management tools like mätaitai reserves and taiapure.
These tools provide for customary Maori use and management practices rather than protection of biodiversity. If tangata whenua wish, these tools could be applied in a way that allows the area to be included in the protected area network.
What about marine reserves?
Existing marine reserve applications before Ministers will continue through the statutory process already triggered.
However, proposals that have not yet reached the stage of a formal application will be folded into the new system.
The Government intends that new proposals for marine reserves will be initiated through the new MPA Policy process.
The government intends that at least one example of each habitat or ecosystem included in the protected area network will be protected by a marine reserve. Marine reserves will also be used to protect outstanding and rare sites.
Does the number of habitats and ecosystems defined under the classification equal the number of marine reserves?
No, generally each marine protected area will include more than one habitat type. The government intends that at least one example of each habitat or ecosystem included in the protected area network will be protected by a marine reserve.
Will I still be able to commercially fish in a marine protected area?
This will depend on the type of protection and the legislative restrictions set up for a particular site. No commercial fishing will be allowed in Marine Reserves, but some fishing methods are likely to be allowed to some level within the network in areas designated as ‘other MPAs’ and “other marine protection tools”.
Fishing prohibitions in place in a protected area will be based on the Fisheries Act (i.e. those rules imposed primarily for the purpose of sustaining fisheries resources and for avoiding, remedying or mitigating the adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment). For example controls on:
- Dredging, bottom trawling, Danish seining
- Bottom gillnetting and potting when used on sensitive biogenic habitats
- Purse seining, midwater trawling, midwater gillnetting and bottom gillnetting.
Prohibitions on other methods may be appropriate on a case by case basis.
The MPA policy envisaged some level of take would be allowed within some parts of the protected area network.
Will I still be able to recreationally fish in a marine protected area?
This will depend on the type of protection and the legislative restrictions set up for a particular site. No recreational fishing will be allowed within marine reserves, but recreational fishing is more than likely to be allowed to some level within areas of the network designated as ‘other MPAs’ and ‘other marine protection tools’. The level of extraction will not significantly alter the overall nature and functioning of the affected ecosystem or habitat, and meet the goals of the MPA Policy.
What role will Regional Councils play?
Regional Councils have significant roles to play in MPA planning and implementation.
Firstly, under the Resource Management Act (RMA) they play a role in identifying areas of significant conservation value in the marine environment. Such areas could potentially contribute to the protected area network if the level of protection offered by RMA tools was sufficiently high, or was used in combination with other legislative tools.
Equally importantly, land-based impacts can have a significant effect on the quality of the coastal marine environment, including protected marine areas. Management of land-based impacts is primarily the responsibility of Regional Councils.
How does the Foreshore and Seabed Act relate to the MPA Policy?
Territorial Customary Rights Orders that have been applied for and granted will create management frameworks that might meet the Protection Standard. If the Protection Standard is met, these areas could become protected areas.
What is the management programme for deepwater areas?
Under current legislation, management tools like the Marine Reserve and Resource Management Acts only apply to New Zealand's Territorial Sea (within 12 nautical miles of our coast).
However, Fisheries Act tools can be implemented right out to 200 nautical miles – the boundary of our EEZ. Beyond this is the “high seas”, where management tools can implemented under the Fisheries Act or agreed to at an international level through bodies such as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
In November 2007, the Government established 17 Benthic Protection Areas; primarily in New Zealand’s EEZ. These areas protect about 30% of the seabed in the EEZ from the use of bottom trawling and dredging activity. Because of the contribution these protected areas make to benthic protection, the government has chosen not to implement the MPA Policy in the EEZ until 2013. MPA Policy implementation will concentrate on the territorial sea until then.
Before implementing the MPA Policy in the EEZ, government will revisit both the classification system and the protection standard to make sure they reflect improved knowledge and research conducted between now and 2013.
How can I be involved?
The Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation will draw up an inventory of current protected areas and identify gaps in the network. They will also identify which of the 14 coastal biogeographic regions are priorities for implementation.
Once implementation begins in a biogeographic region, forum groups will be established that bring together tangata whenua, representatives of commercial and recreational users, environmental groups, regional councils and tourism operators.
These groups will work with government and scientists to identify potential sites for protection within their region's coastal marine environment.
This has already begun for the South Island's West Coast, and will soon commence for the Sub Antarctic Islands, Otago/Southland and the Auckland/Hauraki area.
A process is currently underway around the Kaikoura area. This is not part of the MPA Policy implementation, but sites identified by it could become protected areas if they meet the Protection Standard.
Implementation of the MPA Policy will occur in other biogeographic regions over the next few years. Look here on the Biodiversity NZ website for details: http://www.biodiversity.govt.nz/seas/biodiversity/protected/mpa_policy.html