New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society and New Zealand Marine Sciences Society – Key closing messages

A combined meeting of the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society (NZFSS)
and the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society (NZMSS) held in Hamilton last
week identified a critical gap relating to research and management of
estuaries. NZFSS and NZMSS are professional bodies that support science for
management of New Zealand’s freshwater, coastal and deep ocean systems.
The theme of the conference was “Aquatic Science at the Interface” and
the opening plenary speaker, Dr Clive Howard-Williams, Chief Scientist of
Freshwater and Estuaries at NIWA, set the scene with a focus on New
Zealand’s 300 estuaries which lie at the interface of rivers and lakes
with the sea.


Estuaries are important: they are nurseries for fish, they filter out
contaminants and are a ‘hot spot’ for wildlife and ecosystem services.
Estuaries also lie at a critical point between land and sea where growing
pressures from urbanisation, intensive lowland agriculture and rising sea
levels collectively impact on their health and well-being. Examples include
Tauranga and Porirua harbours which are adjacent to large population
centres, and the New River Estuary in Southland which is being degraded by
sediments and nutrients from agricultural sources.

Dr Howard-Williams pointed to the major effects of excessive levels of
nutrients and to estuary health generally. He also identified a key gap in
knowledge about how estuaries function. This is partly because scientists
have tended to specialise into freshwater or marine systems rather than
both. Insufficient attention has been paid to link research into estuarine
management. This link has become more critical as contentious issues arise
such as mangrove management, opening of coastal lakes, and excessive
sedimentation.

Delegates at the conference reinforced just how important estuarine
management will become as the national Freshwater Reforms are developed.. A
key tenet of the Freshwater Reforms is to implement a limits-based approach
for contaminants, known as the National Objectives Framework. Managing to
limits may be extremely difficult to achieve in estuaries, which have
traditionally acted as a sink for excessive levels of contamination arising
from multiple inputs, sometimes across several catchments. Members of the
two societies continually emphasised the need for a fully integrated
approach to managing estuarine health, involving improved agricultural
practice and better management of urban stormwater and wastewater,
underpinned by inter-disciplinary research across the freshwater-marine
space.

Estuaries across the globe are also particularly vulnerable to invasive
species because they are often the first point where trans-ocean ships dock.
Plenary speaker Lindsay Chadderton, from The Nature Conservancy of the Great
Lakes in the United States, described his seven years of experience in
trying to limit the spread of invasive freshwater mussels and fish such as
Asiatic carp, into the Great Lakes region. Economic costs from these
invasions run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year and eradication of
the most environmentally damaging invaders looks to be impossible given the
extent of spread of these species and the ease of new incursions or
re-introductions. There are important biosecurity lessons here for New
Zealand in terms of surveillance and early, pro-active management of
invaders to avoid much more costly controls after there has been extensive
environmental damage.

The two societies consider that, without urgent action, estuary health will
be at severe risk from accelerated eutrophication, sedimentation and
invasive species. The societies recommend that
(1) Research be better coordinated among freshwater and marine scientists so
that estuaries do not “fall between the cracks”.
o Critical research areas relate to the sustainability of fish habitat,
seagrasses and shellfish, as well as aquaculture in estuaries.
o Estuary research needs to be included as a theme within at least one of
the Ten Science Challenges.
(2) Radical improvements be made to reduce sediment and nutrient loads to
estuaries, particularly from areas of intensive lowland agriculture but also
from urban areas.
(3) The government speed up the implementation of a National Objectives
Framework for freshwater management, and adopt all of the recommendations
arising from the third report of the Land & Water Forum,
(4) Estuaries be included in the National Objectives Framework.
(5) Improved and comprehensive biosecurity plans are made as soon as
possible so that procedures for detection, control and eradication of
invasive species in estuaries are well established.

Last year NZFSS issued a statement about the perilous state of freshwaters
of New Zealand and the need to implement limits-based management. This year
both NZFSS and NZMSS are urging the government to act with decisiveness and
urgency so that New Zealand’s international environmental reputation is
not eroded by the state of its estuarine ecosystems.

Contacts:
Prof. David Hamilton (President, New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society):
davidh@waikato.ac.nz; 0211357288
Dr Mary Livingston (President, New Zealand Marine Sciences Society):
mary.livingston@mpi.govt.nz
Dr Clive Howard-Williams (NIWA, Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand):
clive.howard-williams@niwa.co.nz; 027 4315 037
Lindsay Chadderton (The Nature Conservancy Great Lakes Project):
lchadderton@tnc.org
Hannah Rainforth (Te Kahui o Paerangi; Māori representative for Freshwater
Sciences Society): hannah@kahuimaunga.com
Assoc. Prof. Conrad Pilditch (New Zealand Marine Sciences Society Council
member): conrad@waikato.ac.nz
Neil Deans (Fish & Game NZ): ndeans@fishandgame.org.nz
Kate McArthur (The Catalyst Group): Advocacy and Submissions Manager
(NZFSS):
kate@thecatalystgroup.co.nz

Abbreviated Statement
New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society and New Zealand Marine Sciences
Society – Key closing messages
Estuaries in New Zealand are under threat from excessive levels of sediments
and nutrients from urban and intensively-farmed agricultural areas. The New
Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society (NZFSS) and the New Zealand Marine
Sciences Society (NZMSS) have made a collective statement about the
pressures on New Zealand’s 300 estuaries. They have made recommendations
to reduce the risks and impacts from eutrophication, sedimentation and
invasive species. Estuaries are important: they are nurseries for fish, they
filter out contaminants and are a ‘hot spot’ for wildlife and ecosystem
services.
The societies recommend that:
(1) Research be better coordinated among freshwater and marine scientists so
that estuaries do not “fall between the cracks”.
(2) Radical improvements be made to reduce sediment and nutrient loads to
estuaries, particularly from areas of intensive lowland agriculture but also
for urban areas.
(3) The government speed up the implementation of a National Objectives
Framework for freshwater management, and adopt all of the recommendations
arising from the third report of the Land & Water Forum,
(4) Estuaries be included in the National Objectives Framework.
(5) Improved and comprehensive biosecurity plans are made to reduce risks of
invasion and establishment of exotic species that could severely degrade
estuarine health.

NZFSS and NZMSS are urging the government to act with decisiveness and
urgency so that New Zealand’s international environmental reputation is
not eroded by the state of its estuarine ecosystems.
[END]

Download at:
http://freshwater.science.org..nz/pdf/NZFSS_and_NZMSS_Media_Statement_2013_conference-1.docx

Contact: David Hamilton, davidh@waikato.ac.nz

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