New Zealand’s Seascapes
The iconic Hauraki Gulf is New Zealand’s most-utilized body of water—and its most compromised, due to decades of overuse.
In New Zealand, intensifying and expanding aquaculture and the potential for marine mining of iron ore and other minerals from the ocean floor present an economic opportunity, but are creating deep divisions between these industries and concerned groups, from local NGOs to commercial and recreational fisheries.
Meanwhile, the loss of shellfish reefs in coastal water bodies such as the Hauraki Gulf and other critical nearshore habitats has resulted in degraded water and fewer fish.
The Nature Conservancy will help New Zealand better protect its freshwater and marine resources. Here, we’ll show how supply chain reform and impact investments that deliver both conservation results and financial returns for investors can reduce freshwater pollution and provide cleaner water for nature and people. With local partners, we will help restore oyster reefs and strengthen the sustainability of regional fisheries on which New Zealand and its neighbors depend.
The iconic Hauraki Gulf is New Zealand’s most-utilized body of water—and its most compromised, due to decades of overuse. Bordering metropolitan Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city), the Gulf was once home to abundant green-lipped mussels, horse mussels, cockles, pipi, tuatua and other shellfish. These native species formed expansive beds and reefs that played vital ecological roles, such as filtering seawater of sediments and contaminants, providing fish nurseries, stabilizing the seabed, and greatly enhancing the Gulf’s biodiversity.
The previous extent of this ecosystem is now hard to comprehend: Today, Hauraki Gulf’s shellfish beds are now degraded or lost entirely. Overharvesting of shellfish, combined with decades of sediment runoff, trawler fishing and extensive dredging has removed native species that once the Gulf’s waters.
Fortunately, there is a growing groundswell of support to repair the damage. Hauraki Gulf is the site of the nation’s first marine spatial plan, released in 2016, which outlines strategies to restore biodiversity while supporting key industries such as fishing, shipping, aquaculture and tourism.
Multiple individuals, organizations and agencies—including the Department of Conservation, local Iwi leadership, Revive Our Gulf, the University of Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf Forum, and the Auckland Council—are now working to implement recommendations from the spatial plan. But to date, such efforts have been under-resourced.
In one of our newest country programs, The Nature Conservancy in New Zealand aims to invigorate this work and provide solutions that can be applied to marine environments throughout the country. Over the past year, we have facilitated a number of learning exchanges in New Zealand with restoration practitioners in Australia and the United States, where TNC shellfish restoration projects are well-established.
Working with others over the next three years, we will restore 20 hectares of living shellfish reef, beginning with green-lipped mussels, that will serve as the gold standard for New Zealand marine habitat restoration. TNC will also help establish citizen science programs that engage significant numbers of volunteers—including recreational fishers, youth groups and local communities—to participate in conservation and restoration. And we will engage iwi communities (a Māori tribe, the largest of the groups that form Māori society) in planning, implementation and assessment of these shellfish restoration efforts.