Forum to consider marine sanctuary
Marine protection for the coast from Timaru south is up for debate and people are invited to share their views.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith has announced the establishment of a community-led forum to consider marine protection for the Otago coastline, the only area without a protected marine area.
The forum is to focus on the coastline between Timaru and Waipapa Point, at the southern end of the Catlins in Fiordland, with the plan being to follow successful forum models that have established marine protection in areas including the West Coast, Fiordland and the Subantarctic Islands.
Timaru fisherman Raymond Mitchell said he could not comment without knowing its extent.
Any involvement in the debate, or submission made, would come from the Federation of Commercial Fishermen.
However, Timaru commercial fishermen had for years been observing a voluntary zone which stretches 1.6km out to sea. Local fishermen agreed to the zone to protect elephant and rig fish, which lay eggs close to shore.
Dr Smith announced the plans yesterday, stating that with many threatened species living in the region, it was vital some form of protection was established for them.
"New Zealand has a network of 34 marine reserves covering an area of 1.28 million hectares. However, Otago stands out as being the only region without a marine protected area," Dr Smith said.
"Otago's spectacular coastline is home to some of our most endangered species like the yellow-eyed penguin, northern royal albatross and New Zealand sea lion, and deserves more protection."
Dr Smith said those with in-depth knowledge of the region's marine landscape were being called upon to put their names forward to be part of the forum.
"We need people on the 14- member forum with strong links to the southern marine region and who are able to negotiate, facilitate, compromise and work well with others.
"It's important we get a wide representation of the various interested parties, as well as a good geographical spread."
The forum will be charged with engaging the community to build a consensus and make recommendations to the Government on what type of protection is required.
"I would like the forum convened by the end of this year and the process under way in 2014. My hope is that the forum will have its recommendations to government by 2015," Dr Smith said.
Nominations for forum members are due by November 18.
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