New marine environment group wants to restore Tasman Bay
A new environmental group wants to help develop a marine management plan for Tasman Bay and the Abel Tasman's marine reserves.
The Tasman Bay Guardians recently held a working bee of divers and support boats to clean up underwater rubbish dumped by boaties and commercial fishermen at two popular sites in Abel Tasman National Park.
The group is the brain-child of park tourism operator Stew Robertson of Abel Tasman Eco Tours.
The clean-up of rubbish at Anchorage and Adele Island was its first event and saw seven divers, backed by dive and support boats, skippers and deck hands, retrieve around half a tonne of dumped refuse.
"We certainly did not get it all. There is plenty left down there," Robertson said.
"It's all about educating people on the threats to Tasman Bay's marine environment and finding solutions. We want to include all stakeholders and find ways we can all work together."
Robertson said trawling, dredging, set netting and recreational fishing practices all impacted on the bay's fisheries and the marine environment.
"In shared areas we have problems with commercial fishermen processing catches near the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park and tourism operators speeding, which impacts on the penguins and seals."
He wanted to include commercial stakeholders in the process.
"We need to identify values in the marine space and what industry, recreational fishermen, divers and iwi want to see."
Robertson envisaged an eventual marine management plan similar to Kaikoura's Te Korawai O Te Tai Marokura.
The resulting marine management bill, signed into law in 2014, established a number of marine protection and sustainable fishing practices in the Kaikoura coastal area.
Robertson said it was early days.
"The challenge is to come up with common goals in order to create a healthy marine environment for the next generation.
"Now is the time when the sea is most under threat and if we carry on business as usual we will be in deep trouble."
Robertson wanted to see accessible marine reserves on the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park and the restoration of the Tasman Bay and Separation Point coral reefs.
"But progress will be slow. There is so much vested commercial interested in extracting marine resources," he said.
Saturday's rubbish clean-up "hardly scratched the surface of what is down there", he said.
"There is not a single person who would not be disgusted to see the extent of the marine rubbish.
"No one thinks that marine rubbish is okay. But only the diving community really see what is there."
Robertson also worked with local schools through the national Experiencing Marine Reserves programme.
"Changing the behaviour and perceptions of children can rub off on parents."
For more, see Tasman Bay Guardians on Facebook.