Microplastics are found in three out of four fish in New Zealand, huge portions of native seabirds and marine species are threatened with extinction, and warmer oceans are becoming uninhabitable for native species, according to a new government report on the state of the country’s oceans. .
The marine assessment of the Ministry of the Environment, published Thursday, paints a grim picture of endangered species. It found that 90% of native seabirds, 82% of native shorebirds, 81% of assessed marine invertebrate species and 22% of marine mammal species were classified as threatened with extinction or at risk of being threatened. of extinction.
Over 4,100 seabirds were killed by longline fishing in a year, and warmer, more acidic oceans were becoming uninhabitable for taonga (precious) species and affecting traditional Maori food sources. Data from the report shows that ocean acidification has increased by 8.6% between 1998 and 2020, global water temperatures have increased and marine heat waves have become more frequent and severe.
“The report is right to say that it paints a sobering picture,” said Environment Minister David Parker. He cited the emissions reduction plan, the ban on single-use plastic bags and freshwater management plans as examples of government actions aimed at relieving some of the pressure on ocean environments.
On some measures in the report, things were improving or staying the same: in national measures of nutrient pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, more sites had improving trends than deteriorating trends.
Green Party spokeswoman Eugenie Sage, however, said the report “tells a decades-long story of government neglect when it comes to the health of our oceans”.
“The health of our oceans is deteriorating at an alarming rate and we risk losing valuable habitats forever,” she said, calling for greater regulation of the fishing industry, a ban on more single-use plastics and the expansion of ocean sanctuaries.
Conservation group Forest and Bird called the findings a “crisis” and said in a statement that “the true scale of the crisis affecting the oceans could be much worse as the risks of extinction facing most marine mammals , fish and invertebrates remain unknown, due to lack of research”.
“Aotearoa New Zealand is an island nation…we depend on the health of our ocean ecosystems,” said Nicola Toki, chief executive of Forest and Bird. “The fishing industry is already suffering the effects of ocean degradation and warming, with salmon stocks dying and hoki and crayfish populations collapsing.”
Toki called for urgent, multi-partisan political action “to give our ocean the protection it deserves.”