Our reporting programme identified three top issues:
- global greenhouse gas emissions are causing ocean acidification and warming
- native marine birds and mammals are threatened with extinction
- coastal marine habitats and ecosystems are degraded.
We chose these three issues because of:
- the scale of harm, or potential harm, to natural systems – ocean warming and acidification have widespread implications for species and ecosystems across the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and territorial sea
- the deteriorating trend – ocean warming and acidification are increasing and the overall conservation status of seabirds is worsening
- the irreversibility of change – ocean acidification and warming will continue for generations and species extinction is permanent.
We have limited national data on the degradation of coastal marine habitats and ecosystems, but we know from scientific case studies and observation that these ecosystems are under the most pressure from human activities. These pressures can interact and combine to have cumulative negative impacts on ecosystems.
Coastal habitats have critical functions in the wider ocean ecosystem. They are also the places closest to where New Zealanders live, work, and play. For these reasons, we chose the degradation of coastal marine habitats and ecosystems as a top issue even though current data do not tell the full story.