NZ pushes environment credentials at Our Ocean summit

Wellington, Sep 12 (IANS) The New Zealand government will be promoting its leadership in ocean conservation at a global summit in the US from September 14 to 16, the authorities said on Monday.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said she would lead New Zealand’s delegation to the 2016 Our Ocean conference in Washington, Xinhua news agency reported.

The summit would address major issues in marine protection such as climate change, ocean acidification and sustainable fishing.

New Zealand was “a world leader in ocean conservation,” Barry said in a statement, citing the announcement last year of the creation of the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, which at 620,000 sq km would become one of the largest fully protected marine areas on Earth.

The 2014 and 2015 Our Ocean conferences produced nearly $3 billion in new global conservation partnerships and initiatives, she said.

In 2015, New Zealand committed to 1.8 million NZ dollars ($1.32 million) of work on ocean acidification, 50 million NZ dollars ($36.69 million) to support sustainable fishing in the Pacific and joined the Safe Ocean Network to crack down on illegal fishing.

However, the government came under fire last week for abstaining on a motion urging governments to aim to set aside 30 per cent of the marine environment in protected areas by 2030.

The motion was passed by a majority of members at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at World Conservation Congress in Hawaii.

Environmental group WWF said the New Zealand government’s refusal to support the motion was “hugely disappointing.”

“It looks like the government chose to listen to the irrational arguments of a few fishing industry lobbyists rather than to the science and the 96 per cent of New Zealanders who want more marine protection,” WWF-New Zealand executive director Chris Howe said in a statement.

New Zealand’s Forest & Bird conservation group said just 0.48 per cent of New Zealand’s oceans in its vast exclusive economic zone were fully protected, and the figure would rise to 15 per cent with the establishment of the proposed Kermadec Sanctuary.

“Protecting a further 15 per cent of our oceans by 2030 is a realistic target,” Forest & Bird marine advocate Karen Baird said in a statement.

–IANS

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