Estuarine disaster forecast

Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014

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Estuaries in Southland are on the verge of an ecological disaster, according to Environment Southland reports.

A report on estuarine and rocky-shore monitoring results was presented to councillors at yesterday's environmental management committee meeting. It painted a dire picture on the health of estuaries.

All bar Freshwater Estuary showed signs of rapid degradation, with the gross eutrophic (rich in nutrients that feed algae) areas of most increasing exponentially.

Jacobs River Estuary's area at a gross eutrophic level had increased from 20 hectares in 2008 to 141ha in 2013 - 30 per cent of the estuary.

Councillor Robert Guyton said he was concerned by this and questioned whether it showed the estuary was on the verge of a huge ecological collapse.

"They talk about estuaries being the canary in the mine and it looks like the canary is dead," Guyton said.

It was a big concern as, among other things, estuaries were habitats for flatfish, the loss of which which would impact the fishing industry, he said.

After the report's presentation, Malcolm Lawson, chief executive of Cra8, the fishery to the south of New Zealand, spoke about the impact of water quality on the fishing industry.

After the food safety scares in China stemming from New Zealand products, New Zealand's fishing industry could not afford any negative perceptions, Lawson said. The industry was keen for opportunities to work with the council and other agencies.

"We can't afford for them to have a perception we are fishing out of waters that are polluted. Whether it's true or not, once that perception is generated it's difficult to change."

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