The Regional Council will be conducting monitoring at the Motiti Protection Areas and wider Motiti Natural Environment Management Area to determine if the protections put in place by the court are achieving the desired biodiversity outcomes. Are the Marine Protection Areas working?
The BOPRC Science Plan sets down priority work areas, including Toitū te Takutai moana – Marine and Coastal, which includes a number of priority areas in relation to the Motiti Protection Area:
- Develop cultural health indicators (in conjunction with tangata whenua specialist advisory group) to assist with and work with tangata whenua on effective implementation
- Understanding present and future threats to coastal ecosystems and biodiversity values with a strong focus on climate change, and development of management options.
- Understanding and monitoring ecosystem and biodiversity values in the marine coastal zone to assess potential adverse impacts by fishing activities.
The science plan also identifies resourcing, capability and relationships as requirements to deliver this work. It sets out the importance of working with research providers, local iwi and to include external specialist expertise when needed for areas such as broadscale habitat mapping.
Once confirmed, the first step in monitoring these areas is to establish current day condition – how does the ecology of these reefs look today, before the reefs are protected. This data will then be used for years to come as a reference point against which to assess changes in biodiversity that occur following the prohibition of the removal of flora and fauna, and assess the success of these fishing closures.
In addition, during the Environment Court hearings a wide range of scientific and cultural knowledge was shared with the courts showing the decline of environmental and cultural health in the Motiti area. Traditional mātauranga Māori knowledge held by tangata whenua represents a longer timeframe of changes observed in the marine environment, compared to the current day state that our monitoring will provide. Some of the questions that we will be asking with our monitoring will include: what types of habitats are represented in the protection areas (e.g. kelp forest, sponge gardens, kina barrens) and what biodiversity do the reefs and habitats support (e.g. fish species).
Additional monitoring based on mātauranga Māori will be codeveloped with tangata whenua. We are also investigating ways for recreational divers to monitor and collect their own information to support the wider monitoring programme.
Continued monitoring using the same methods over time will allow us to measure changes that may occur because of the protections. For example, the changes in fish numbers or the biodiversity associated with kelp forests. Ultimately, this will tell us if the Motiti Protection Areas are protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
This type of monitoring involves observing the natural environment, measuring key components (in this case biodiversity and habitat) and conducting analyses to determine how things are changing over time. Tools marine scientists may use include scuba diving equipment, cameras, drones, and quadrats (set 1 m2 areas) to monitor selected areas and species, as indicators of the state of the entire study area.