New Colmar Brunton polling has revealed that New Zealanders want more than a third of their oceans protected in marine reserves – a 100-fold increase on current levels.
The research, commissioned and published by WWF-New Zealand today has found more than nine in ten New Zealanders (96%) think more of New Zealand’s oceans should be protected in ‘no take’ marine reserves – areas set aside as off limits for extractive activities such as fishing and mining.
On average New Zealanders stated they want about a third (36%) of the country’s oceans protected in marine reserves, 100 times greater than the area currently under protection.
Commenting on the findings of the research, WWF-New Zealand Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird said:
“New Zealand’s oceans are home to a globally significant diversity of wildlife and habitats, and WWF is campaigning for a national network of marine reserves to safeguard our unique marine biodiversity.”
“The research shows that protection levels for our seas are a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of protection New Zealanders want. Currently marine reserves cover a tiny percentage of our oceans.”
“For marine wildlife to be protected and thrive, the government needs to respond to New Zealanders’ views and create more reserves that will act as national parks for the sea,” said Ms Bird.
Strong public support
New Zealanders’ attitudes to marine protection have remained constant over the last few years – polling conducted in 2005 and repeated in 2011 found over nine in ten New Zealanders support more protection of their marine environment in reserves. On average the proportion they feel is right to protect has remained consistent at 36%.
The Colmar Brunton poll also asked respondents to estimate how much of New Zealand’s ocean they thought was already protected in marine reserves. On average, New Zealanders estimated 31% of our oceans is protected, yet in reality the figure stands at just 0.3%. By comparison, nearly 20% of New Zealand’s land mass is under equivalent protection, such as national parks.
WWF-New Zealand is calling on the Government to reinstate the stalled Marine protected areas process and bring about the marine protection New Zealanders want to see. Despite many years of promises by successive governments, very little progress has been made towards the government’s own target of protecting 10% of the marine environment in marine reserves.
“The proportion of our oceans protected in marine reserves is wholly inadequate to safeguard our marine environment and wildlife. New Zealand’s oceans are under pressure from commercial and recreational fishing, from pollution, and from new threats such as exploration for oil and gas.
“The research reaffirms that as a nation, New Zealanders value our oceans, and we are conservation-minded people. With a general election looming, the government should seize the opportunity to respect the views of the vast majority of New Zealanders by taking action now to protect our seas.” said Ms Bird.