NZ Marine Reserve Safeguards Southern Islands
WELLINGTON, New Zealand, January 27, 2003 (ENS) - The Auckland Islands Marine Reserve is closer to becoming a reality now that the application of a New Zealand government agency for this protected status has been approved. The Aucklands are subantarctic islands south of New Zealand that offer a haven for marine mammals and sea birds.
Birdwatchers who visit these remote islands will see black, grey-faced and Cook's petrels, Buller's shearwaters, blue penguins, Australasian gannets, and Arctic skua. Whalewatchers will find Bryde's whales, common and bottlenose dolphins and orcas.
The country's primary conservation organization, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, known Forest and Bird, welcomed the government's approval of the marine reserve application. The protected area includes all the waters now in the Auckland Islands' Marine Mammal Sanctuary, and overlaps with other protected designations, the group observed.
"The approval of this marine reserve also protects the part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage Area that surrounds the Auckland Islands," said Barry Weeber, Forest and Bird's senior conservation officer.
The application by Director-General of Conservation Hugh Logan says a Auckland Islands Marine Reserve aims to begin the establishment of a marine reserve network that would represent the full range of habitats and ecosystems found in New Zealand's marine environment when fully developed.
Forest and Bird will be seeking clarification of the government's intentions with regard to its proposal for the Kaikoura marine reserve off the northeast coast of New Zealand's South Island. The group first applied for this status over 10 years ago, but its application has been ignored by every minister of conservation since then.
The group would like to see all the existing applications for marine reserves approved quickly. A Marine Reserves Bill now before parliament would establish a set timetable to process marine reserve applications.
The conservation organization says Waiheke Island, Stewart Island, Wellington South Coast, north Nelson, and Paraninihi are also worthy of legal protection.
The Auckland Islands have the richest flora of all the subantarctic islands - 233 taxa have been recorded, of which 196 are native.
The islands also have a long history of introduced species. Rabbits, goats, cattle, cats, rats, mice and pigs placed on the islands in the early 1800s have been destructive to the natural ecosystem. Sea lion pups fall into the remains of rabbit warrens, and albatross breeding grounds are destroyed by pigs. As an albatross takes only one mate in a lifetime, the entire species suffers.
Rabbits and cattle were eradicated by the Department of Conservation in 1990, and pigs will eradicated as soon as a viable method becomes available.