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Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are seeking public feedback on a proposed network of marine protected areas off the southeast coast of the South Island.

The proposed network includes 6 marine reserves, where marine life would be fully protected and fishing banned, 5 marine protected areas, which would impose a range of restrictions to fishing, and 1 kelp protection area, where commercial harvest of bladder kelp would be prohibited.

There is currently no marine protection in this area between Timaru and Waipapa Point in Southland.

Fisheries New Zealand and DOC are encouraging people to have their say on the proposals.

“This proposed network, covering almost 1,300km2 between Timaru and Southland, could be a significant step towards protecting marine biodiversity in this area,” says Fisheries New Zealand’s director of fisheries management, Stuart Anderson.

“We want to hear everyone’s views on the network – if people think it will be effective, and how it is likely to affect local communities.”

Last year, the Ministers of Fisheries and Conservation announced their intention to consult on the proposed network, which is one of 2 options put forward by the South-East Marine Protection Forum in 2018 for marine protection for the region.

The proposal contributes to protecting biodiversity under the Government’s Marine Protected Area Policy and will help New Zealand meet its international obligations to establish marine protected areas over 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

“We want to hear from the public to get their views on establishing a marine protection network to protect a range of coastal and estuarine habitats and feeding areas for marine mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates,” says DOC planning director Natasha Hayward.

“These marine habitats are currently under pressure from the effects of human activities, including climate change.”

“This spectacular coastline is home to some of our most endangered species such as hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin, toroa/northern royal albatross, and rāpoka/New Zealand sea lion. It also has rare deep-water bryozoan thickets that protect juvenile species from predators, and giant kelp forests that are habitat for many fish species.”

DOC and Fisheries New Zealand are continuing to consult with Treaty partner Ngāi Tahu about the proposed network and their aspirations for their rohe moana.

People have 2 months from 17 February to 17 April make submissions on the proposed network and individual marine protection measures within it.

Online submissions can be made through Public Voice:

Once consultation closes, the submissions will inform the Minister of Fisheries’ and the Minister of Conservation’s final decisions on the marine protection proposals.