Marine protected areas: Draft classification system and protection standard
IntroductionSubmitted 27 September 2007: The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) supports the concept of establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Date of submission: 27 September 2007
Submitted to: MPA Consultation
The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) supports the concept of establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and it is pleased that progress is being made with the development of tools to support the Marine Protected Areas Policy.
The Authority’s primary interest is the maintenance of healthy ecosystem structures and services in the marine environment; from the benthos to the surface of the water and mean high water springs.
The Authority considers that protecting biodiversity should be given the highest priority in decision-making.
The Authority also considers that clearly articulated goals and guiding principles will enable the greatest number of people to understand the purposes and reasoning for protection, as well as the issues involved in the selection of specific sites.
Identification of NZCA
The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) is a statutory body established by section 6A of the Conservation Act 1987. Its members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation on the nomination or recommendation of four specified bodies (4 members), after consultation with three specified Ministers of the Crown (5 members) and after the receipt of public nominations (4 members). This process ensures that a wide range of perspectives contribute to the advice provided and decisions made by the NZCA. The functions of the NZCA are centred on policy and planning which impact on the administration of conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation, and the investigation of any conservation matter it considers is of national importance. The NZCA has had a consistent focus on marine matters in recent years and has adopted a set of ‘marine principles’ which are attached to this submission. The NZCA has the power to advocate its interests at any public forum and in any statutory planning process.
In December 2005 the Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan stated that the aim was “… to have 10% of New Zealand’s marine environment with some sort of protection by 2010.” The NZCA considers that the government must re-examine the 10% target and increase this in the light of the approaches being proposed in this consultation document as in our view there will be insufficient protection for marine biodiversity via no-take mechanisms. Whilst the NZCA has consistently argued for a spectrum of protection mechanisms, and for the integration of multiple use and zoning approaches in addition to no-take protection, there needs to be sufficient areas given full protection from extractive activities.
The NZCA considers that there is a need to develop a layperson’s guide to these documents and to the processes surrounding the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Given the importance of the marine area for all New Zealanders both as part of the heritage of our country, and for its diverse biodiversity, cultural, recreational, and economic values, the MPA processes need to engage with the full spectrum of the New Zealand community. It was stated in the MPA Policy and Implementation Plan “We want regional councils, marine users, tangata whenua and those with an interest in marine biodiversity to all be involved”. The NZCA was encouraged by the statements in the Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan (December 2005) that the intention of the Policy is to have “an inclusive and transparent process”. However, these documents are technical and difficult to access for people unfamiliar with the material or the background literature, and so many people will be unable to engage with the process. It is critical that the general public can understand the implications of these documents and how they will affect their interactions with the marine region/coastal zone. Engagement with the public requires that the key agencies with responsibility for MPA development and implementation produce accessible, plain language guides – these consultation documents do not meet the community’s needs.
The fact that there are very few references to Maori in this document concerns the NZCA. In the Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan (December 2005) it was stated that “implementation will be underpinned by a commitment to minimise the impact of new protected areas on existing users of the marine environment and Treaty settlement obligations” – we do not see this reflected adequately in this document.
The NZCA supports the concept of establishing a network of MPAs. It is however disappointed that Government has not adopted a more holistic view of marine protection akin to the IUCN (World Conservation Union) which defines a marine protection area as “any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying waters and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by legislation or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment.”
We consider that the NZ definition of an MPA “an area of the marine environment especially dedicated to, or achieving, through adequate protection, the maintenance and/or recovery of biological diversity at the habitat and ecosystem level in a healthy functioning state” is too restricted. We are concerned that the approach taken in New Zealand is lagging behind international practice and may not meet our obligations under the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).
International experience has shown that problems arise when there is fragmentation in the governance systems used to manage specific uses of marine resources “together with spatial and temporal mismatches between biophysical systems and the rights, rules and decision making procedures created to manage human interactions with these systems” (Young et al 2007). MPAs have been shown internationally to work in rebuilding and sustaining fisheries and other ecosystem services (e.g. Helvey 2004) but it is also clear that by themselves they are not sufficient. International experience points to the need for MPA implementation within a wider, integrated sustainable management regime that enables multiple use of ecosystems.
It is critical that the fragmented approaches to marine protection and management in New Zealand are addressed. The current systems are not adequate and do not serve existing and future generations of the New Zealand public, nor meet our obligations under the CBD. The NZCA is concerned about the apparent lack of integration of activities and knowledge across different agencies. We are concerned that the work on MPAs may be part of this problem rather than part of the solution. At present there are a suite of activities related to the marine environment happening in “silos” without apparent reference to one another. In addition to the consultation on this paper on MPAs, the Ministry for the Environment is currently consulting on regulation of environmental effects in the New Zealand EEZ, the status and progress of the revised Marine Reserves Act is unclear, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement is under review, and there is substantial work underway within MAF-Biosecurity NZ on valuation (environmental, economic, cultural, social) of New Zealand coastal regions. These are just some of the initiatives of which the NZCA is aware. We urge that agencies establish mechanisms to enable best knowledge to be shared and integration of policy and planning to occur.
As a signatory to the CBD, New Zealand is required to report on progress towards meeting biodiversity goals. The NZCA considers that it is therefore important that there is a review process for the MPAs involving both the Classification System and the Protection Standards including implementation steps. This would enable an examination of the effectiveness of the implementation processes being proposed, as well as assessment of the quality and nature of the classification tools and the protection standards themselves.
The specific comments of the NZCA are attached.
Specific comments: Coastal and marine habitat and ecosystem classification mapping the marine environment for implementation of the Marine Protected Areas Policy
1. (paras 12, 40, 50, 51) The NZCA considers postponing MPA creation in the offshore region until 2013 is inappropriate and does not appear to be based on sound analysis.
The NZCA is seeking a holistic approach to the development of an MPA network and accordingly considers that the offshore/deepwater areas need to be incorporated and integrated into the planning processes. The benthic protection measures put forward by industry and accepted by the Minister of Fisheries are inadequate to represent offshore ecosystems. The Benthic Protection Areas (BPAs) only protect benthic habitat and a range of fishing activities and extractive activities are still allowed within these areas. Most significantly the BPAs are primarily sited in areas of low productivity and low biodiversity as has been shown by analyses of data from the fish research database held by the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish).
As we understand the BPA Accord agreed to by the Minister of Fisheries, implementation of the MPA Policy in the EEZ will not commence until 2013 – unless new or significant information comes to hand. This is a proviso not mentioned in the MPA consultation document. The government is currently investing in exploration of the EEZ through the Oceans 20/20 programme and there is also considerable commercial exploratory work happening in the EEZ for minerals, petroleum and gas. It would be short-sighted of the Government to limit itself and not to respond in a timely way to new information emerging from research and exploration activities happening in the EEZ over the next 6 years.
In the NZCA’s view, there is already sufficient information available about some highly bio-diverse areas of the offshore regions around New Zealand to begin consideration of how they can be given appropriate recognition within the wider MPA network. In addition, there are powerful analytical tools available to evaluate the design of a network in which biodiversity protection and extractive activities can both be accommodated.
2. The NZCA considers that where biological data are available they must be incorporated into the classification system
The NZCA is concerned that the classifications that are described for both the coastal and offshore regions are based solely on the limited information that is available across the entire EEZ. Whilst consistency of approach may be useful in some contexts, the NZCA argues that in order to get the most robust outcomes all available data sources should be used. In particular, biological data are critical. Constraining the classification system to the two physical variables - depth and substrate - as the means “..to identify habitat and ecosystems within each coastal biogeographic region” is not scientifically sound. The inclusion of at least one further characteristic - exposure/shelter of the coastline - would be an improvement and data is readily available for that to be incorporated.
Biological data are available for a relatively large proportion of the EEZ and these would add value, both to bolster the environmental classifications, and also to assist with the interpretation of areas where biological information is lacking. For example, analyses of demersal fish trawl information is available within trawled depths of 200-2000 m and this enables scientifically-robust predictions of species abundance across the fished portions of the EEZ.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has produced a report on the hotspots of New Zealand marine biodiversity for marine mammals and seabirds, fish, and benthic invertebrates and algae (Arnold 2003) based on the outcome of a Delphi workshop. In addition, there are a range of summaries and inventories for various marine regions around the country. Currently MAFBNZ is funding an exercise to identify environmental, economic, social and cultural values of the coastal zone. These, and other sources of biological data, could be available within the prescribed deadlines of 2010. The identification of information gaps also needs to be given high priority as well as establishing consistent approaches to environmental monitoring. Action on these could also be addressed within the next few years and provide valuable data for environmental and resource managers. Some regional councils are already proactive in this work.
The NZCA is concerned that these documents appear to leave room for stakeholders to ignore relevant biodiversity information when selecting the most appropriate network for their own needs rather than maximising biodiversity protection. Not including biodiversity information is counter-intuitive for marine protected areas with a biodiversity purpose, even if that purpose is limited to the habitat and ecosystem level. This is a major concern. The wording of paragraph 37 does not reassure - “… additional biological and physical data will allow for more informed decisions to be made about the biodiversity value of specific sites. This can then be weighed against other considerations, such as minimising impact on existing users…” The NZCA seriously challenges if there is any sound evidence to support this approach. This wording appears to indicate that in considerations about the MPA network, biodiversity information is an optional extra and is only to be balanced against other user requirements rather than being seen as key to the MPA definition. Given that the MPA Classification Standard is intended to provide guidance for the development of a marine protected areas network that is comprehensive and representative of New Zealand’s marine habitats and ecosystems, this does not appear to be a robust approach.
3. The use of best available information/science within the decision-making processes
NZCA considers that decision-making should be based on the best available information at the time a decision is made. Guiding principles that are quantitative, and make use of the most robust, science-based methods available, need to be explicitly articulated. The primary objective underlying the MPA network design to maximise biodiversity via habitat/ecosystem representation should be clearly stated.
It is possible to use scientific goals and data to determine a set of potential choices of network design, and then use stakeholder values to determine the design of a network that results in least conflict between users whilst still achieving the biodiversity objectives. There are internationally used conservation planning tools which are designed to incorporate costs/values through various weighting algorithms. In the Draft Classification Standards, the relative weight given to scientific/ecological information compared to stakeholder interests is ambiguous. It is not clear to us how any socio-economic, cultural, and historical data will be collected, by whom, and what relative importance it will be given in determining costs. This is important and needs to be made explicit.
4. Clarification of the role and involvement of stakeholders and the Marine Protection Planning Fora (MPPFs)
NZCA considers that it is crucial for the successful development, implementation and management of MPAs that there is effective stakeholder consultation and participation from an early stage. Stakeholders must have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the network: we do not want to see a process that disenfranchises the New Zealand public.
The roles of different stakeholders need to be defined in the MPA processes. Who participates in the MPPFs? What weight is given to the four tasks outlined in paragraph 52? The relative importance of stakeholder values in the design and decision-making processes need to be more adequately defined. In relation to maximising biodiversity, at what stages do stakeholder values become incorporated? If consensus does not emerge, either within the MPPF or between competing interests, where are the guiding principles that direct the MPPF in its activities and decisions? When/how do principles override community/stakeholder wishes?
Although cultural use is one of the site selection guidelines (paragraph 64 “consider information on traditional use, values, current economic value and Treaty settlement obligations”), it is not clear who will be considering these issues and how the relevant information will be provided – and how Maori will have a voice in the process.
The ‘offshore expert group’ (paragraph 53) will be in charge of making decisions for this large proportion of the New Zealand EEZ but the “specific expertise and representation of offshore interests” is not defined. The BPAs were designated with little input beyond industry stakeholders and did not include available scientific information, or consultation with other affected parties. Will the ‘offshore expert group’ enable the voice of scientists without direct economic interests to be heard? And how will the voices of other sectors, such as Maori not involved in the fishing industry, conservationists, extractive commercial enterprises other than fishing, be heard?
There needs to be a transparent strategy to incorporate stakeholder values. These values can then be used to assess and assist in choosing between scientifically-based network designs, to minimise conflict and impacts on stakeholders.
5. Zoning and multiple use
The success of sustainable marine management associated with the development of the network of MPAs will lie in developing procedures that can mediate among different uses of marine resources and establish priorities when conflicts are unavoidable. The growing pressures on marine ecosystems are not going to lessen. It will not be possible to solve problems by simply allocating harvestable resources (such as fish) amongst competing users. Increasingly there are demands placed on marine systems for different purposes – aquaculture, energy production, mining of minerals and petroleum from the seabed, as well as the establishment of marine reserves and other MPAs. In some cases this management of the resource can occur through managing competition and thereby avoiding conflict but in other cases there needs to be consideration of whether the existing or proposed activities are in fact compatible with maintaining healthy ecosystem structure and services.
In the Draft Classification Standard there is no mention of either zoning or multiple use of the marine environment. These are approaches that have been used very successfully overseas (e.g. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park). Zoning and management that incorporates multiple use can help to get greater acceptance of marine protection principles. Such approaches can provide for customary use (e.g., mataitai, taiapure), as well as for education, tourism, non-fishing recreation, protection of cultural, historical, geological sites, in addition to commercial and recreational fishery uses. Zones can also enable buffer areas between MPAs and other marine activities/regions.
6. Spatial scales, representation of habitats/ecosystems, and integration of MPA network
Ecological connectivity is an issue that is increasingly being considered in marine planning internationally. Research has shown that at high latitudes the dispersal and life-history characteristics of fish populations show much greater ranges than in tropical locations where MPAs have been established (Laurel & Bradbury 2006). These authors point out that larger scale MPAs will be required at higher latitudes, either as single reserves or in a network, otherwise “we lose the legitimacy of a new and promising management tool for conserving marine biodiversity”.
There is a need within the Classification Standard to provide definitions and goals that provide guidance on spatial scale and position of the MPAs across the EEZ. In particular the minimum area, minimum length of maximum dimension, and also the distance between MPAs should be defined. There also needs to be clarification about the replication of each representative habitat/ecosystem type within each biogeographic region. The minimum percent of each habitat type that is to be represented within the network should also be defined.
Integration between regions is essential and national oversight required to achieve coordination between bioregions. There is a need for bottom-up and top-down planning to ensure that this occurs – and the links between coastal and offshore areas also need to be considered.
7. Goals for the MPA network need to be articulated
NZCA considers that protecting biodiversity should be assigned the highest priority and be defined in the decision-making process. Successful international MPA networks have clearly defined, quantitative guiding principles (e.g. the Biophysical Operational Principles for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park). It is the understanding of the NZCA that setting guiding principles and clearly articulating goals for the MPA network will assist with planning and implementation – and enable the wider public to understand the purposes and reasoning for protection as well as the issues involved in the selection of specific sites.
In summary the NZCA considers that:
- The importance of protecting biodiversity should be assigned the highest priority and be specified as a necessary element in the decision-making process.
- There should be definitions that provide guidance on spatial scale and position of MPAs - in particular the minimum area, minimum length of maximum dimension, and the distance between MPAs.
- There needs to be clarification about the replication of each representative habitat type within each biogeographic region, and the minimum percent of each habitat type that is to be represented within the network should be defined.
- The relative importance of stakeholder values and the roles of stakeholders in the design and decision-making processes need to be more adequately defined. In relation to maximising biodiversity at what stages do stakeholder values become incorporated – how is consensus reached? – and when/how do principles override community/stakeholder wishes?
- Integration between regions is essential and a national oversight is required to coordinate between bioregions. There is a need for bottom-up and top-down planning and integration of the MPA network.
- MPAs need to be part of a wider integrated sustainable management regime to enable multiple use of ecosystems
Specific Comments - Protection Standard:
Interpretation and application of the Protection Standard
The consultation document states (para 4) that the Protection Standard “is important because it sets out the outcome we want to achieve for every MPA site in New Zealand….” However the ways in which this will achieved are not clear from this document.
The governance and management structures are critical to the success of the proposed MPA network. Without this information it is unclear how the standards presented in this document will be applied.
- The governance for MPAs is not clear to the NZCA.
- There is no information about how the Marine Protection Planning Fora (MPPFs) are to be established,
- How many MPPFs will be required around the country to get the appropriate coverage of coastal areas including offshore islands, and to make sure that issues relating to the boundary areas will be dealt with appropriately?.
- How much discretion will be left to the MPPFs?
- How will the standards be applied?
What support will be provided to MPPFs as far as research results, interpretation of data, guidance on how to balance/weight different considerations (intrinsic, inter-generational, science, community aspirations, commercial drivers)? Planning Principle 7 (paras 37-39) deals with the concept of “best available information” but it is not clear how the “..ecological, environmental, social, cultural and economic aspects of the marine environment…” will be balanced, and who will be responsible for this complex balancing act. The Protection Standard seems to be built around the concept of managing impacts of human-generated changes to the environment, and the concept of core environmental standards does not feature in this document. In the NZCA’s view the document does not provide sufficient guidance.
There is no mention of Planning Principle 3 “The special relationship between the Crown and Maori will be provided for, including kaitiakitanga, customary use and matauranga Maori”. This seems to be critical to the success of the MPA processes and the NZCA is very concerned that this is not addressed.
There is no mention of Protection Principle 4 “MPA establishment will be undertaken in a transparent, participatory and timely manner”. The NZCA has concerns about all three of these characteristics of the MPA establishment process. In order to be “transparent” more information is required for the general public both in terms of plain language and readily accessible information, and also by way of explanation of how the MPPF approach will work. This is at the heart of “participatory” – whose voices will be heard and who is able to participate in the establishment and on-going governance? As far as “timely”, the NZCA does not consider that only beginning to examine offshore MPAs in 2013 meets an adequate standard, and there is also no indicative timeline for the coastal MPA roll-out.
How will the Protection Standards be monitored and at what scales?How will the research and monitoring required to evaluate the success of the MPAs be fed back into management? If modifications to the individual MPAs or to the network are required to achieve the outcomes intended, how will these be instituted? The NZCA is pleased that the issue of cumulative impacts is acknowledged (although as a footnote) but we are not at all clear who has responsibility to assess cumulative impacts. It is not clear who has responsibility for the licensing of activities within MPAs; not only commercial activities such as fishing and extractive commercial operations, but also recreational activities. How will an overview be maintained of the suite of activities within MPAs? How will activities which are initially thought to meet standards and then are subsequently found to be having deleterious impacts be stopped?
In the NZCA view the Protection Standards are naïve with respect to biosecurity threats. Whilst the suggestion in paragraph 106 “that MPAs should not be located where feasible in areas where there is a high Biosecurity risk” biosecurity risks are significant in all areas where there is vessel movement. In addition, the establishment of MPAs will potentially result in altered vessel movements with an increase in pleasure and tourist commercial craft visiting these areas. If MPAs are to succeed there will need to be much better connection between MAFBNZ and the lead agencies involved in MPA establishment and management. At present MAFBNZ is carrying out a valuation exercise for the coastal zone throughout the country. The results of this work need to be linked to the MPA processes.
The guidance provided on tourism and visitor disturbance is inadequate. Are there any standards regarding vessel and visitor activities with respect to disturbing bird life and marine mammals? How will these be applied? How will the links between the MPAs and other key marine legislation (e.g. Marine Mammal Protection Act, Fiordland/Te Moana o Atawhenua Marine Management Act) be made explicit? Although the disturbance of benthic communities through anchoring is mentioned, there are no suggestions about tools and approaches that could be used to help manage threats and risks. The concept of “natural quiet” – areas where human generated noise is restricted (eg motorised vessels) - needs to be included in this document.
The protection standards are meant to be enabling maintenance of biodiversity or “its recovery to a healthy functioning state at the habitat and ecosystem level” – but there is no mention of the protection of genetic biodiversity, one of the key parts of the definition of biodiversity in the CBD.
Benthic biodiversity is very important and a number of the protection standards address benthic communities. But there is not sufficient recognition of the connectivity within marine systems at a range of scales (benthos to water column, life history stages of organisms, vulnerable size/age classes) and insufficient attention is given to the protection of pelagic species. The benthos (including infauna) and water column as well as species living on or requiring the marine area for their livelihood all need to be considered.
Arnold, A. (2005) Shining a spotlight on the biodiversity of New Zealand's marine ecoregion: Experts workshop on marine biodiversity, 27-28 May 2003, Wellington, New Zealand. World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Wellington, New Zealand.
Helvey, M. 2004. Seeking consensus on designing marine protected areas: keeping the fishing community engaged. Coastal Management 32: 173-90.
Laurel, B.J., Bradbury, I.R. 2006. “Big” concerns with high latitude marine protected areas (MPAs): trends in connectivity and MPA size. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 63: 2603-2607.
Young, O.R. et al. 2007. Solving the crisis in Ocean Governance: place-based management of marine ecosystems. Environment 49 (4) :20-32
The New Zealand Conservation Authority: Marine principles
1. Protection of marine biodiversity and marine ecosystems and marine landforms unique to New Zealand is a national and international responsibility.
2. The marine environment will be governed for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
3. The marine environment is viewed as a taonga – there for everybody and upon which we rely, rather than as a resource base on which to create property rights.
4. Any allocation of rights to use marine resources will be based on robust and
appropriate environmental research.
5. Decision-making will be informed by traditional knowledge of tangata whenua along with new sources of information and research.
6. Where there is insufficient information, the precautionary principle will apply.
Preservation and protection
7. Priority for protection will be afforded to our unique indigenous flora and fauna.
8. Responsibilities to future generations requires that non-extractive values of the marine environment, such as intrinsic values, wildness values, spiritual values and ecosystem services, are protected.
9. A spectrum of protection mechanisms will be employed to enable communities to be involved in the protection and preservation as well as the rehabilitation and use of marine ecosystems (e.g. taiapure, mahinga mataitai, reserves).
10. Representative, rare, and special marine ecosystems will be preserved in perpetuity as “no take” areas within the limit of the EEZ.
11. The marine environment will be sustainably managed in a way that maintains its potential for future generations.
12. The marine and terrestrial environments will be managed in an integrated way that recognises the complex inter-relationships of land, sea and atmosphere.
13. Rights to use the marine environment should be exercised in an ecologically sustainable manner.
14. Where finite resources are being used e.g. mining of finite resources, this is to be carried out in a manner that mitigates the adverse impacts of the activity on the marine environment.