Climate change, pollution and fishing are causing irreversible damage to New Zealand's marine environment and putting many birds and mammals at risk of extinction, according to a new report from the nation’s Ministry for the Environment.
The report said New Zealand's coastline, which stretches for about 15,000 kilometers, is also under increasing pressure from development and shipping. Agriculture, forestry and urbanization are increasing the amount of sediment, chemicals and plastics flowing into the oceans, and contaminating the coastline, it said.
The report said 90 percent of the country's seabirds and about a quarter of its marine mammals are threatened with extinction, and that 16 percent of New Zealand's fish stocks had been overfished.
"The sea is a receiving environment for what happens on the land, so our activities on land from the mountains to the sea are having an impact on what we are seeing in the marine environment; growing cities, forestry, agriculture — all delivering increasing amounts of sedimentation," said Vicky Robertson, New Zealand's secretary for the environment.
The report also confirmed that New Zealand's sea temperature had risen and was consistent with the global average. It also found sea levels were rising faster than before.
There was a warning, too, that New Zealand could expect more frequent marine heat waves, similar to those in 2017 and 2018, and ocean acidification.
For the first time, data from citizen scientists were used in the government report. Community groups were instructed about how to collect robust data.
The next official marine environment report is due in three years.
New Zealand is a grouping of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia. It has a population of 4.5 million people.