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Environmentalists ‘impressed’ by the Green Party’s Healthy Oceans Act

20 September, 2023

Interview by Rawan Saadi, adapted by Joel Armstrong

Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner, Ellie Hooper, says that the Green Party’s Healthy Oceans Act is a necessary move to ensure healthy oceans for the future. Image: Hauraki Gulf - Wikimedia Commons.

The Green Party recently announced their proposal to pass a Healthy Oceans Act, if elected to government, which sets a target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.

If implemented, the act would ban fishing, mining, and other industries from causing harm to a third of the ocean.

This announcement came a week after the Labour Party promised to ban 80% of bottom trawling in Tīkapa Moana o Hauraki, the Hauraki Gulf.

Oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Aotearoa, Ellie Hooper, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that Greenpeace has been advocating for better protection of New Zealand’s oceans, and is “impressed” by the Green’s policy.

“In the Greens policy, they say they will commit to a ban on bottom trawling on seamounts and from in the Hauraki Gulf.” 

“This is something that Greenpeace has been campaigning for for years. We really need to see these restrictions if we want to have a healthy ocean for the future.”

Hooper believes  Labour's promises of banning 80% of bottom trawling from the Hauraki Gulf is not enough to combat the damage affecting the coastal feature.

“If we want this area to recover from the large-scale destruction that has happened to it over the last 100 years, we need to completely ban destructive fishing methods like trawling and dredging from the entire marine park.”

She said the fishing industry has had free reign to decide what areas should be prioritised for protection. Because of this, the industry has been choosing to protect sites with low biodiversity value that are unimportant for their fishing activities. 

Seafood New Zealand, the body representing the seafood industry, has criticised the Green Party’s policy, claiming that the party is misinforming voters. They have argued that the sector is not ‘abusing’ ocean areas for produce, and are in fact monitoring quotas, and managing fisheries efficiently.

However, Hooper believes Seafood New Zealand’s criticism is a PR campaign to try greenwash bottom trawling.

“It is definitely not a misinformation campaign coming from environmentalists. It is actually supported by science and it shows that we really need to stop bottom trawling. We need to restrict it from the areas that do the most damage.”

Hooper stated that fisheries in Aotearoa are not concretely monitored and that there needs to be more commitment from the government to digitally monitor commercial fishing boats.

“We have just got the first round of cameras signed off, which is only on about a third of the commercial fishing fleet. That is a big win. But we need comprehensive monitoring across the entire fleet if we want to have an accurate picture of what is happening.”

She advocated for ocean protection to be led by iwi and hapū, and to prioritise regions of important biodiversity value going forward.

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air