Marine biologist and underwater photographer Roger Grace will be the keynote speaker at the Bay of Islands Maritime Park annual general meeting at the Copthorne Hotel in Waitangi on Saturday.
Dr Grace says a dramatic change in the land-use practices around the Bay and a huge increase in the commercial and recreational fishing pressures have seriously degraded fish habitats.
If we want to restore the waters of the Bay we have to get serious about minimising sediment and nutrient runoff and providing highly protected areas where the fish can recover and begin to make a comeback. We expect the fish to provide us with endless opportunities to catch a feed, yet we seem reluctant to give them safe havens in which they can do their thing and ultimately provide us with those opportunities.
Mr Grace will look at the history of snapper fishing as an example of what has happened to several popular species.
He also talks about more recent history of encouraging changes in the few totally protected areas in northern New Zealand, and compares this with half-hearted attempts at partial protection.
We need a good network of highly protected areas in the Bay and adjacent coasts if we are to make any headway towards restoration of the marine habitats and fish life.
The maritime park group, formed in 2006, is an umbrella organisation bringing together about 30 tangata whenua, business, community, recreational, environmental and governmental organisations that have an interest in improving the environmental health of the Bay of Islands.
The meeting, which starts at 10am, will also discuss a number of maritime park group projects, including a Waitangi River catchment “Golden Valley” concept, featuring kowhai, along similar lines to Project Crimson.
A seagrass restoration project will study seagrass beds in the Bay of Islands, then identify the likely causes of seagrass decline, leading to management options to reduce detrimental impacts.