Marlborough’s Marine Sites in Jeopardy

The first year of monitoring a series of significant marine sites in the Marlborough Sounds suggests large areas of deterioration and an urgent need for more formal protection.

A report prepared by a Nelson marine biologist, jointly funded by Council and the Department of Conservation and presented to the Marlborough District Council’s Environment Committee, makes for alarming reading, said Committee chairman Peter Jerram.

The report suggests that of nine sites, two had disappeared altogether while seven had diminished in size. Overall, there had been a decline of 71.6% in the size of the sites over a four year period of monitoring.

Sedimentation, caused by flooding rivers washing material out to sea and smothering the local habitat, was a significant cause of the damage along with the physical disturbance of the sites caused by dredging and anchoring.

At present only one significant site in the Marlborough Sounds is protected as a marine reserve.

The report was a wakeup call as the speed of deterioration was frightening, said Councillor Jerram.

Losing 70% of the area of significant sites in only four years tells us there are major problems in the way we are treating the Sounds,” he said.

Council’s Regional Planning and Development Committee will consider the ecological report and determine what kind of protection Council’s new resource management plan should deliver for these specific seabed sites and on the wider surrounding area.