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A project initiated by the Auckland City Council, which aims to make
the Hauraki Gulf a showcase for good environmental management.


'No take' network to counter over-fishing

A valuable, additional form of fisheries management in New Zealand is offered by 'no take' marine reserves. Over the past 20 years they've been shown to be practical, and to provide support in the areas of science, education, recreation, conservation and social economics.

Now, a representative network is the official aim, says Dr Bill Ballantine, a leading campaigner for marine reserves in this country. As a biologist doing research at the University of Auckland's marine laboratory at Leigh, he has seen how over-fishing can destroy the delicate balance of oceanic systems, and turn waters teeming with life into dead zones where nature's bounty is all but exhausted.

Dr Ballantine became determined to help prevent this happening. In 1965 he and his university colleagues proposed a 'no take' sanctuary, where habitat and marine life would be undisturbed by fishing, diving, harbour construction or mining.

Their plan was initially rejected but after dogged lobbying by the scientists, the New Zealand government finally enacted the Marine Reserves Act 1971.

Today, there are 13 marine reserves in New Zealand, and more than 25 are proposed. Despite this, he says, there is still a long way to go and his goal is to convert 10% of the country's marine habitat to reserve by the year 2000.

This goal is based on common sense rather than science, he says, and would see a network of self sustaining reserves to improve species' breeding potential and support exploited fish stocks. "Marine conservation is decades behind conservation on land, largely because of public ignorance and indifference about the sea," he says.

"However, New Zealand and other countries have shown that 'no-take' reserves are both practical and necessary. I think marine reserves are just like cash reserves in business. You do after a while figure it is a good idea to have a floating sum of money for things you can neither predict nor control."

He has ample evidence of success at Leigh, where crayfish are 20 times more plentiful inside the reserve than outside, and, once-dwindling species (such as red moki and snapper) now thrive.

The reserve areas feed into areas where people can fish, which is good reason,he says, for those with purely economic interests in the gulf to be in favour of a marine reserve network. In the Auckland region, reserves proposed off Great Barrier Island, Miranda, Waiheke Island and the West Coast are all good steps towards establishing a network in the region, he says.

New Zealand is gaining international interest and support for the idea of 'no-take' marine reserves. Dr. Ballantine uses this country's reserves as models to promote similar schemes around the world. These include a reserve established in British Columbia in 1992, and he is currently working on a 2,000 square mile reserve off Florida. This year, Dr. Ballantine was one of six recipients of the prestigious United States award, the Goldman Environmental Prize and was given $US75,000 for his environmental activities.