EDF Hosts New Zealand Marine Reserve Expert's Discussion Tour

November 10, 1997

(10 November, 1997 ? Woodstock, CT) The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and more than a dozen local co-hosts will sponsor a series of open discussions on New Zealand?s experience with marine reserves and their potential in the Gulf of Maine. Renowned marine scientist Dr. Bill Ballantine of the University of Aukland in New Zealand will tour Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Nova Scotia from November 17 to 23.

“New Zealand has created a network of 13 marine reserves since 1981,” said Doug Hopkins, EDF oceans program manager. “As a result, New Zealand has experienced an increase in the diversity of marine life and commercially important fish stocks in regions where marine reserves have been established. EDF is sponsoring Dr. Ballantine?s tour because we believe that his story of New Zealand?s experience with marine reserves will stimulate constructive dialogue about whether marine reserves could help the Gulf of Maine.”

Recently, some thirteen New England fish stocks were declared overfished by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Marine reserves or closed areas are attracting increasing attention from fishermen and fishery managers as a way to supplement current fishing restrictions in the Gulf of Maine. For example, trip limits and reductions in allowable fishing days at sea have not sufficiently limited catch of Gulf of Maine cod. The New England Fishery Management Council now is considering one or more new closed areas in the Gulf of Maine to protect the cod stock. Lobsters, overfished now despite a minimum size limit, offer another example.

“The National Marine Fisheries Service has sounded the alarm that lobsters are at risk of collapsing suddenly,” said Hopkins. “Few legal sized lobsters escape the record high number of traps set along the New England coast and offshore waters. Although the overall abundance of lobsters is high, the very low number of large lobsters is a sign of big trouble on the horizon. A network of marine reserves in the Gulf of Maine might create a reservoir of large spawning lobsters and provide an insurance policy to avert a disastrous collapse of the lobster fishery which provides 50,000 jobs and about a quarter of the total fishing industry landings in New England by value.”

“Coastal communities should choose where these reserves or conservation pockets are located,” said Dr. Ballantine. “Marine protected areas can be powerful learning tools as well as providing safe harbor for many species of marine life.” Ballantine advocates creating a network of small protected areas, conserving pockets of marine space containing examples of every unique habitat type found in an undersea region. Citing New Zealand?s experience, Ballantine says these reserve networks are an effective strategy for maintaining fish stocks, increasing our understanding of the marine environment, and providing insurance against the inevitable unintended consequences of trying to manage marine ecosystems with an incomplete understanding of how all their pieces fit together.

The tour schedule follows: Mon., Nov. 17—Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole, MA —1:30-3:00 p.m.; Waquoit Bay Research Reserve, Waquiot MA 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.. Tues., Nov. 18—New England Aquarium, Boston—10:00 a.m. -12:00 noon; Seacoast Science Center, Portsmouth, NH—7:00- 8:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 19—Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm—11:00-1:00 p.m.; Rockland City Hall, Rockland ME —7:00- 8:30 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 20—College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor ME., 2:30 - 4:00 p.m. Co-hosts include the Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org), the New England Aquarium (Boston), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Marine Policy Center, Gulf of Maine Council Marine Protected Areas Project, Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Falmouth, MA), Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Seacoast Science Center and New Hampshire Estuaries Project (Portsmouth, NH), Conservation Law Foundation, Wells Estuarine Research Reserve (Wells, ME), College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME).