Deepwater Group's letter to New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) on why New Zealand's Benthic Protection Areas are internationally-recognised as Marine Protected Areas:

"Dear Nick,

We write in response to the email you distributed this week to the NZMSS members on behalf of WWF-NZ.

We ask that NZMSS provides the same courtesy to Deepwater Group (DWG) and forwards this email to your members.

Benthic Protection Areas (BPAs) are internationally-recognised as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and DWG is of the view that it is in New Zealand’s best interests that this recognition should continue.  DWG recognises that the development of appropriate MPAs in New Zealand waters remains a ‘work in progress’ and that the existing MPAs will need review once the Government completes its proposed MPA Policy.

What are DWG’s rationales for this?

Should there be a comprehensive network of MPAs in New Zealand waters?

Yes.  MPAs are one of a number of tools for conserving marine biodiversity.

Are BPAs considered MPAs?

Yes.  New Zealand’s BPAs are recognised for their significant global contribution to marine biodiversity by the New Zealand Government, the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority, and internationally by scientists, academics and NGOs.

BPAs have been designed to set aside at least 10% of each Marine Environment Classification within New Zealand’s EEZ.  They protect around 30% of the EEZ, covering an area 14 times the size of New Zealand’s protected land area, and 4 times the size of New Zealand’s land area overall.

The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by New Zealand in 1993, recognises that MPAs can take many forms, including those that allow for sustainable uses that do not undermine their conservation objectives.  The New Zealand Government’s proposed MPA Policy also acknowledges this and proposes four types of MPAs including ‘Seabed Reserves’, a form of BPA that protects the sea floor (i.e. benthic biodiversity).

What selection criteria was used to establish BPAs?

Based on the best available science at the time, areas were selected that were:

  1. Unmodified– the sea floor was largely untouched by humans
  2. Large– both as individual parcels and cumulatively
  3. Simple– to facilitate ease of interpretation and compliance
  4. Delivered Government policy– to protect not less than 10% of New Zealand’s marine environment in some form
  5. Representative of:
    • The Marine Environment Classifications within the EEZ – at least 10% of each
    • Geologic regions– to encompass the full range of oceanographic conditions, half of the BPAs are to the north and half are to the south
    • Depth ranges– selected to encompass all depths 0-200 m, 200-750 m, 750-1,500 m and >1,500 m
    • Underwater Topographical Features– selected to encompass seamounts (>1,000 m elevation), knolls (500-1,000 m elevation) and hills (<500 m elevation), as well as hydrothermal vents.
  6. Transects– as little is known of the exact spatial extent and locations of various marine benthic habitat, BPAs were selected from transects from 12-200 nm offshore, contiguous with MPAs inside of the 12 nm Territorial Sea. These are Fiordland Transect, Antipodes Transect and Kermadec
  7. Alignment with the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ)– in order to leverage off existing MPAs, the Sub Antarctic Deep BPA is contiguous with the Macquarie Island Marine Park in the south and the Norfolk Deep BPA aligns with the NZ EEZ:AFZ boundary in the north.

For a summary of the science and policy developments underpinning BPAs, see Helson et al (2010) available here.

Are BPAs a fisheries management tool?

No.  The purpose of BPAs is to set aside a representative range of benthic biodiversity within New Zealand’s EEZ.  They are not a tool for managing fish stocks.  New Zealand’s fisheries are managed under the Quota Management System and under the Fisheries Act 1996.

Why were BPAs implemented under the Fisheries Act?

There is, as yet, no specific statute to promulgate MPAs within New Zealand’s EEZ.

As fishing was the only significant human activity in the EEZ at the time, and the Fisheries Act provides for conservation measures within the EEZ, BPAs were established under this statute in 2007.

Is New Zealand better with or without BPAs?

The wide range of benthic biodiversity in New Zealand waters is better protected with BPAs than without.

There has been one application for a mining permit in a BPA.  The Environmental Protection Authority declined this application noting, amongst the reasons for their decision, that this would likely have significant adverse effects on the benthic habitat and that this would undermine the conservation value of the BPA.

No bottom trawling or dredging can take place in a BPA.  Mid-water trawl fishing is allowed but only under strict conditions (e.g. the vessel must have at least two government observers onboard and have electronic net monitoring systems to ensure the gear is no more than 100 m near the seabed, and fishing within 50 m of the seabed carries a fine of up to $100,000 and seizure of the vessel).

Where can I learn more about New Zealand’s protected areas?

The UNEP World Database of Protected Areas provides a useful, up-to-date, comprehensive database of international protected areas (land and marine)."