Action to save Hauraki Gulf needs 'urgency', Conservation Minister says

The Minister for Conservation says action on the Hauraki Gulf is too slow and more urgency is needed to fix the dire environmental situation there. 

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Eugenie Sage says things are getting dire and multiple reports are showing a "continued decline". Source: Breakfast

Eleven of the 14 most commonly caught fish in the gulf may disappear entirely, according to a report released this week, and more than 15,000 square kilometers of shellfish beds have been lost in the area. 

Hauraki Gulf was established as New Zealand's first ever national park of the sea 20 years ago.

But the sixth State Of The Gulf report found no-take areas are so small as to be almost meaningless, crayfish have all but disappeared and the total reported commercial catch of fish in the most recent three-year period was around 30 per cent greater than in three years before the marine park was established. 

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says things are getting dire and multiple reports are showing a "continued decline".

"The action is too slow, we need agencies giving it the urgency it deserves," she told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"Everyone has to think about our responsibility rather than our rights."

An advisory committee is set to report back later this year about the best way to conserve and replenish the Hauraki Gulf, Ms Sage says.

It's likely that strict restrictions on recreational fishers will need to be put in place so stock can recover.

Another idea includes relocating more mussels and shellfish to the sea bed, to help re-establish the natural habitat and micro ecosystem.

A similar action in a different area led to an incredible recovery, Ms Sage says, with small fish and seaweed now thriving.

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New Zealand Geographic publisher and director James Frankham says Auckland’s big blue backyard is in much trouble. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday James Frankham, New Zealand Geographic publisher and director, spoke candidly to Breakfast about the lack of protection being given to the sea.

"On land you wouldn't be able to walk into bush and walk out with seven kiwi tucked under your arm for dinner but in the sea we do that," he said.

"I'm not saying that is right or wrong, but we have a very different attitude to the sea than we do to the land."

Protecting just 20 to 30 per cent of the area would make a huge difference, he said.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, who manages the Hauraki Gulf, declined to be interviewed on Breakfast this morning.