The Hauraki Gulf needs even more protection, says The Hauturu Supporters Trust, a charitable trust established to help support Aotearoa’s oldest nature reserve, Hauturu-o-Toi Little Barrier Island, and implores the incoming government to accelerate conservation efforts. 

“Protecting 18% of the Hauraki Gulf is a good first step but it’s not sufficient to address this biodiversity crisis,” says Dr Andrew Jeffs, Hauturu Supporters Trustee and professor in marine science at the University of Auckland. 

Dr Jeffs has prepared submissions on behalf of the Hauturu Supporters Trust related to both the marine protected areas and bottom trawling consultation topics.  

“More needs to be done to exclude bottom contact and other commercial fishing methods from the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

He explains that the Hauturu Supporters Trust has serious concerns about the effects of the continuing degradation of the environment of the Hauraki Gulf. 

The ongoing environmental degradation is highlighted in the latest State of the Gulf Report released in August, documenting the significant decline in seabirds and seaweed habitats and productivity in the Gulf. The report confirms nearly one in five seabird species that breed in the Gulf, including on Hauturu, are threatened with extinction, and nearly 70% are classified as at Risk. 

Seaweed forests on reef areas in the Gulf have declined dramatically, with total losses as high as a third of seaweed forests. 

“The situation at Hauturu is particularly concerning, with much of the seaweed habitat disappearing from around the island, says Jeffs.

He says the loss is directly attributable to a population explosion of seaweed-eating kina, caused by overfishing crayfish and large snapper in the Gulf. The loss of seaweed reduces the ocean productivity and the diversity of sea creatures that live in the seaweed forest habitat and also affects native reptiles on Hauturu which rely on beachcast seaweed. 

The arrival of exotic Caulerpa seaweed in the Hauraki Gulf is another challenge to biodiversity. 

 “There is an urgent need to reduce fishing pressures and provide greater protection for the marine environment in the Gulf”, he says.  “Proposals for even greater protected areas and reduced fishing access have been languishing with government for years, and need to be progressed now.”


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