Our precious Hauraki Gulf is in serious trouble. Over two lifetimes, the health of its waters have been severely degraded.
We have taken the work of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, who collate the State of the Gulf reports, as our guide to the predicament that the Gulf is facing. We have been guided by the recommendations of the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari working group, made up of Mana whenua, central and local government, local communities and interest groups, whose marine spatial plan is designed to safeguard this treasure. Their evidence is alarming:
Overfishing has caused local fish stocks to decline - crayfish are functionally extinct and snapper stocks have reduced by around 80% (1). Fishing methods such as bottom trawling are destroying sea beds and the marine life that depend on them. The survival of vulnerable Hauraki Gulf species such as seabirds, dolphins and whales is under threat. Plastic waste and chemical pollution are destroying marine life and aquaculture, closing beaches to swimming and killing wildlife. Recent evidence shows that plastic contaminants are now present in the bodies of fish (2) and mammals - including humans (3).
Intensive agricultural practices in the Hauraki region use chemical inputs that create toxic run-off every time it rains. These chemicals end up in the Gulf's waters and sediments leaving the seabed barren and destroying the marine food chain. As Auckland's population grows, unprecedented building development is changing land use and creating destructive drainage patterns. Industrial forestry has reduced the land's capacity to retain soil, nutrients and moisture, leading to erosion and volatile patterns of flooding.
Everyone who works and plays in the Gulf is complicit and we all have a part to play in reversing this destruction. We need to change the way we think about the Gulf - to alter the ways we all act toward it. The data is clear: failure to act now will have a direct impact on recreation, tourism, food-chains, property and livelihoods - not to mention the region's extraordinary natural heritage. It's time for leaders to step up.
Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana / Te Moana-nui-a-Toi State of the Environment Report 2017. Hauraki Gulf Forum, Auckland Regional Council.
Galloway, T.S., Cole, M., Lewis, C. (2017). Interactions of microplastic debris throughout the marine ecosystem. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1, art:0116.
Schwabl, P. et al (2018). Assessment of microplastic concentrations in human stool - Preliminary results of a prospective study. Presented at UEG Week 2018 Vienna, October 24, 2018.