Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Ocean protection push worthy challenge, says fishing industry

The movement's key focus will be reducing overfishing and pollution, and increasing aquaculture. Photo / Thinkstock
The movement's key focus will be reducing overfishing and pollution, and increasing aquaculture. Photo / Thinkstock

The fishing industry has cautiously welcomed the Government's signing of a global push to more than double marine-protected areas and rebuild global fish stocks, a mission that demands at least $1.2 billion in funding.

The Global Partnership for Oceans was formed in February by the World Bank, which believed healthy oceans were essential to alleviating poverty and food crises.

Environment Minister Amy Adams affirmed New Zealand's commitment to the partnership at the Rio+20 conference, which wrapped up on Saturday morning (NZ time).

She said there were important domestic imperatives for protecting oceans, such as fishing and tourism.

It was unclear what New Zealand's contribution to the partnership would be but the movement called for scientific expertise and resources as well as financial input.

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council's general manager of trade Alastair Macfarlane said it would be interesting to see how agreements from the conference would be put into action.

"The issue the minister ... and New Zealand has been emphasising through ... the whole process is the need to address trade-distorting subsidies.

"These are subsidies which support fishing activities that lead to over-fishing and trade distortion."

Mr Macfarlane told the Herald addressing such distortions would be a tough task for governments.

"The global estimate is that there's more than US$20 billion ($25.3 billion) worth of subsidies supporting fisheries around the world for an international trade that's worth somewhere around US$120 billion ... so it's a big proportion of the value of the international trade and fish products.

"The Rio declaration reconfirms the need to remove distorting subsidies, and the place to do it best is in the World Trade Organisation negotiations which have been stalled at least for over two years, and they really need to be re-energised and these sorts of questions addressed."

The World Bank was seeking an initial $250 million of funding for the partnership which it would use to leverage $1.2 billion from businesses, NGOs and other organisations.

New Zealand was joined in the partnership by eight other countries including Australia and South Korea, NGOs, multinational seafood companies and cruise line company Royal Caribbean Cruises.

The movement's key focus would be reducing overfishing and pollution and increasing aquaculture so that farm fishing provided two-thirds of the world's fish stocks by 2022 - up from half at present.

It also aimed to have 10 per cent of the world's oceans protected by reserves in this period. Meeting the 10 per cent goal would require significant acceleration in protection measures - just 2 per cent of the world's oceans were protected. By contrast, 12 per cent of the earth's land mass was under protection.

In a speech to the summit, Ms Adams proudly spoke of the 8 per cent of New Zealand's territorial waters protected by reserves.

Green MP Kennedy Graham, who travelled to Rio de Janeiro, pointed out that just 0.41 per cent of the country's Exclusive Economic Zone - waters out to 200 nautical miles - was protected.

- additional reporting Teuila Fuatai

- NZ Herald

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