17 Mar 2014

Trans-Tasman work to protect oceans

10:22 am on 17 March 2014

New Zealand and Australia are to work together on a proposal for a new international agreement which will aim to improve the way the marine environment is managed.

Conservation minister Nick Smith and his Australian counterpart Greg Hunt announced the initiative at the Blue Green conference in Kaikoura.

Prime Minister John Key and Conservation Minister Nick Smith in Kaikoura.

Prime Minister John Key and Conservation Minister Nick Smith in Kaikoura. Photo: RNZ / Marcus Irvine

It involves work on new rules, being considered under the auspices of the United Nations, which would govern the two thirds of the ocean which are outside the territorial waters of individual countries.

Dr Smith says there is a dire need for regulation and protection of the high seas.

"We know from the science that there are those ecologies, as well as species, that exist only out in that area of ocean.

"Just in the same way in our territorial seas and exclusive economic zone we need to have provision for conservation areas - so too in those high seas."

Member countries have been asked to report back by September next year.

In a joint statement, the ministers say both countries are responsible for huge territorial waters, with strong marine management experience, and it makes sense to work together on the new agreement.

New marine reserves announced

Meanwhile the Government has announced new measures including new marine reserves and fishing regulations, to better protect the environment off the Kaikoura coast.

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Photo: Supplied

They include a new marine reserve over the Hikurangi Trench off the coast of Kaikoura, with more than 4.5 square kilometres also set aside for a whale sanctuary, and a fur seal sanctuary at Ohau Point.

Also announced on Sunday were three customary fishing areas, where commercial fishing will be banned, and tighter catch limits for species including paua, blue cod, crayfish, cockles, karengo and bladder kelp.

Minister Nick Smith says the new reserves and protections have been decided together with commercial, recreational, customary and charter fishers who have agreed to fishing and catch restrictions in the interests of long-term sustainability.

He says the new protections for the environment are the result of a community-wide effort.

Dr Smith says commercial and recreational fishermen, as well as local iwi and tourism operators, all had to compromise in order to complete the deal.

He says the changes will protect Kaikoura's environment and its tourism sector.

Local iwi say they are pleased that the community will manage the new coastal plan.

Ngai Tahu's Mark Solomon says it was a process of compromise.

"Well it was sort of a dream of some of our elders that we work with our community to develop a coastal plan, to manage our coastline on behalf of ourselves and our future generations, so no we're really happy with it."