Credit: Rob Suisted

Posted on 11 August 2020

Media statement: 'Managing our estuaries' report from PCE

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Today, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released 'Managing our estuaries', a report that calls for a ki uta ki tai, mountains to the sea approach to managing estuaries and the waterways that feed them. Here's what Professor Conrad Pilditch, theme leader for Degradation and recovery, has to say about the report:

"This report is sounding the much-needed call for action for this often-forgotten area. It clearly articulates that many estuaries are in trouble and that the current policy and management frameworks to address this are fragmented and disjointed. As the land-sea interface, estuaries are subjected to multiple stressors from all directions; and the cumulative effects of these stressors can cause rapid and unexpected degradation.

The suggested solution of explicitly including estuaries within freshwater management will certainly help regulate land-derived stressors such as sediments and nutrients – which is critical for estuaries to recover.  However, just ‘turning off the taps’ won’t be enough because many stressors occur in the estuary itself or come from the open ocean, and legacy effects may slow recovery. This is especially true when considered against a background of climate change affecting our oceans and coasts.

The report calls for national standardised approaches, something many scientists and marine managers have been saying for a while. Estuaries are currently managed in piecemeal way, and our research has highlighted that most monitoring programs are unable to detect indicators of approaching tipping points.

Although the report doesn’t call for ecosystem-based management (EBM) by name, the holistic integrated approach with decisions informed by science and mātauranga Māori has the attributes of an EBM approach which we strongly support."

Learn more about our tipping points research

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