NEW ZEALAND: A new government report on the condition of the country’s oceans has found that three out of every four of New Zealand’s fish contain microplastics, significant numbers of native seabirds and marine species are in danger of going extinct, and warmer oceans are making native species’ habitats less hospitable.
The Ministry of the Environment published a report on vulnerable species on Thursday (October 13). The report classified over 90% of native seabirds, 82% of native shorebirds, and 22% of native marine mammal species as threatened or endangered.
Seabirds are in danger, partly because of the approximately 1,400 seabirds killed by large fish and the ocean’s increasing acidity last year.
The analysis also found that the ocean’s acidity increased by 8.6% over 22 years, water temperatures rose, and marine heat waves became more intense and frequent.
The environment minister, David Parker, said that the report’s sobering findings are accurate. He cited a number of government actions aimed at reducing strain on ocean environments, including the emissions reduction plan, the ban on single-use plastic bags, and freshwater management plans.
On several measures in the study, things were either getting better or remaining the same: In national measures for nutrient pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus, more sites exhibited improving trends than worsening trends.
However, Eugenie Sage, a spokeswoman for the Green Party, claimed that the research “tells a decades-long story of government indifference when it comes to the health of our oceans.”
She called for tighter regulation of the fishing industry, a ban on new single-use plastics, and the expansion of ocean sanctuaries, stating that “the health of our oceans is degrading at an alarming rate, and we’re at risk of losing valuable places for eternity.”
The findings were called a “crisis” by the conservation organisation Forest and Bird. “Real size of the crisis hitting the oceans could be far worse because the extinction threats facing most marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates remain unknown due to a lack of research,” it added.
The chief executive of Forest and Bird, Nicola Toki, stated, “Aotearoa New Zealand is an island nation. We depend on the health of our maritime ecosystems. With declining salmon runs and collapsing hoki and crayfish populations, the fishing sector is already feeling the effects of polluted and warming oceans.”
Toki urged swift, bipartisan political action to “provide our ocean with the protection it deserves.”