Posts Tagged ‘conservation’
NOTE: since this article was written there have been two hui with key members of Bay of Islands and Northland hapu. Our vision continues to grow, as do our relationships. Our steps forward are tentative but exciting and positive.
Over the past 18 months I have been the impartial, mostly-reliable digital scribe of the Fish Forever campaign team, regularly sharing marine conservation news as @Wantmorefish on Twitter and on our Facebook page to help sustain our presence online. I was asked some time ago to provide an updated “crib sheet”, summing up what Fish Forever was about for journalists, local figures, influencers.
In a flash, my writing powers dried up.
No one was pressuring me to meet a deadline. Nor had I been issued an unrealistic brief. I had been asked only to write more of the same; words shaped to spoon-feed. But something didn’t feel right.
After procrastinating for weeks, I realised what the problem was. Simply put, I can no longer be objective about Fish Forever. If you want objective, go to the website – I wrote it; they are my measured, committee-approved words that tell you exactly what Fish Forever is about: http://www.fishforever.org.nz .
But don’t ask me to be objective anymore.
After a mentally and emotionally challenging 18 months since the inception of the campaign, I can no longer step back and give you the cool overview and balanced arguments for why we need a network of marine sanctuaries in the Bay of Islands. I still believe we do, harder than ever before. But the truth is that this campaign is not one you can be objective about. This campaign is hot and twisted and rankling. It’s exciting, exasperating, rewarding and, occasionally, deathly dull. It interferes with your working life, your private life. For one week a month it becomes your life.
I have said Fish Forever so many times, that it sounds silly in my head. But I’ll keep on saying it. As will the dozens and dozens of people who have been doing the same as me since the campaign began. As will the hundreds of people of who have been involved in any of the small volunteer groups operating in the Bay of Islands, all fighting to look after our waterways, manage our run-off, improve our sewerage, have a say in aquaculture plans, establish mataitai and so on.
The story is the same across the entire country – thousands of people in New Zealand fight for causes they believe in, causes that the government has outsourced to the country’s biggest non-profit public business – the incorporated society.
I could bleat about the injustice of this situation, in which the taxes we pay don’t appear to be sufficient to employ professionals to adequately represent the causes important to New Zealand citizens. I could, but I won’t because it doesn’t get us anywhere.
Instead, I’ll tell you more about the Fish Forever campaign from my own point of view. Fish Forever is the screaming baby of our incorporated society, the Bay of Islands Maritime Park Inc. The campaign was born soon after the screening of the End of the Line at the Turner Centre, Kerikeri on 16 May 2010. The campaign is for marine protected areas in the Bay of Islands. More specifically it is for the establishment of a network of marine reserves, as legislated for by the 1971 Marine Reserves Act. Note that we only choose marine reserves for want of a better tool. At present, there is no other tool available for the kind of long term protection needed to make a positive difference to the depleting biodiversity our ocean’s face. We’ve tried to find alternatives that deliver the same result. At present they don’t exist.
Fish Forever is a community initiative. It is largely volunteer-based. It has become the voice of marine conservation in the Bay of Islands. What the campaigners and supporters want is a healthy, replenished bay; a place that we can all live, work and play in. What we – and when I see we, I refer to every individual that has ever come to a meeting, hosted a hui, worn a tshirt, signed a mandate, marked a chart – what WE – the community, tangata whenua, business – what WE want is a Bay of Islands that teems with plants, birds and fish. We want a bay that provides kai for local Maori in their traditional gathering areas, right on their doorsteps. We want waters that can be fished sustainably by recreational and charter fishermen. We want a bay that offers economic and social benefits to the entire local community.
After wringing our hands for so long, reluctant to commit to a tool some find so officious, the core team of Fish Forever campaigners has committed to pursuing the application for a marine reserve network: this, with the understanding that although marine reserves are not the final answer, they are the only effective long term site-specific tool currently available. The team has not restricted its vision to just marine reserves, in terms of the wider philosophy of local marine management. However, after months of discussion, we feel this is the best means of galvanising our community and taking the first step towards the self-management of our marine environment.
First, to heal. Second, to manage. That is something we learned that from a highly regarded Maori representative, who is campaigning for Maori management rights the length of the Northland coast. We are looking at stage one – healing.
So, the job is not done when an application is handed in. In many ways, this campaign is just the start of a more holistic package, probably driven by traditional Maori tools that will help structure the long-term management of the whole of the Bay of Islands and wider Northland coast. And it probably won’t be called Fish Forever; but I have no doubt members of the Fish Forever team will continue working towards that greater goal.
So how did we get to where we are standing?
Fish Forever started out as a publicity campaign – the accessible face of our incorporated society. We wanted to appeal to the man on the street. We wanted to raise awareness about the severity of the problem of depleting biodiversity, to listen to the stories of how things used to be and to ask the community what they wanted for their bay.
We advocated for approximately 10% of the enclosed waters of the Bay of Islands to be established as a network of marine sanctuaries for at least a generation. These areas should be representative of the region, they should replicate habitat types throughout the network, the areas should be big enough to sustain the habitat type represented, they should be agreed by the community.
We invited people to sign a mandate – we have almost 1100 signatures (a drop in the ocean, but a sizeable proportion of our local community). More importantly, we invited people to engage in the debate about where a marine reserve network might be located – we received 410 responses. We appealed to fishermen to tell us areas that they’d find acceptable – that would neither unreasonably adversely affect their recreation and nor their business. We presented at the Bay of Islands Swordfish club – attendance was poor, so we need to do that again and again as we shape a proposal. We talked to Daryl Sykes, representative of the Rock Lobster industry, about how the commercial sector would respond to the call for a network of marine sanctuaries – he talked of opportunity adjustment – possibly meaning financial recompense for those who “lost” a percentage of their legal fishing area? We have approached members of the different hapu in the Bay to discuss what Maori want to see in the future – to learn about their plans for fisheries management and to find out how we can support each other to achieve mutually strong goals. And yes, we are still talking. We haven’t got there yet.
The tenet of “10% for a generation” proved both advantageous and a thorn in the side. Too much. Too little. Too limited a vision. For example, when Fish Forever campaigners were invited to the Te Tii marae in Waitangi in September, one of the challenges to us was “Why don’t you want to protect the entire bay?!”. They were astonished. And I suppose we were astonished aswell, for two reasons – firstly that it was possible that we could be misinterpreted and secondly, that we had put this limit on ourselves in the first place. Truly, the mantra for 10% hadn’t been intended as a limitation (look after the best bits, bugger the rest). It was about being realistic and having something concrete to campaign for. It was the figure selected because it recalled our government’s international commitment to international commitment that 10% of New Zealand’s waters should be in marine protected areas by 2010.
So do we still say 10%? Yes and no. Some people say 30% or more. Others say we can find different tools to protect a proportion of that percentage effectively, suggesting that a marine reserve may only end up constituting 3% or 4% of the Bay of Islands.
As we continue to talk with Maori about how we can support their own marine conservation and fisheries management aspirations, as we undertake more of the detailed scientific study necessary to ensure we know selected areas meet the criteria, as we venture back to places like the Swordfish Club to talk to the recreational and charter fishing representatives, we will continue to use this figure as an approximate guide for areas than need to be in long term protection in order to guarantee a healthy future for our marine environment.
After 18 months of hard debate, we still don’t have all the links in place. However, the process has started. It is going to be a very detailed, technical process that will undergo intense scrutiny. Alongside the technical work undertaken by our professional scientists, we will continue to engage in constructive dialogue so that once an application for a marine reserve hits the desk of the Minister of Conservation it will bear the stamp of our community. The application will have been shaped by and will do justice to the full spectrum of those encompassed by the overused words “our community” – it will reflect the aspirations of the local people who mourn the loss of a rich marine habitat, the local people who value Tangaroa for his plenty, those people who fear him for his strength and those who love him for the diversity of life he brings.
These are the people with and for whom Fish Forever campaigns.
Author: Catherine Langford, Fish Forever Campaigner
Date: 28 October 2011
Water is not my “natural” element.
I’m quite scared of water, truth be told, and seem only to be able to deal with this fear by forcing myself into situations where I face it square on: sailing fast across deep water that I would never dare swim in; snorkelling in silence in those dark and frightening nooks and crannies; facing pounding surf that bruises my body and fills my nose with brine. Just last night I dreamt I was swimming on the shore line, totally encompassed by pink and orange fish and scratchy seaweed: I was terrified and enchanted at the same time.
Marine science is a mystery to me.
I couldn’t tell you the representative habitat types of our local marine environment (other than the kina barren, an unnatural habitat type that we see in abundance in the Bay of Islands) nor could I list the most commonly occurring fish in the Bay, other than snapper and, once upon a time, kahawai, hapuka, cray.
I don’t know how to fish, but wish I did. I’d put the big and little ones back and take only enough for my table.
So why, from this curious non-position, have I been so caught up in the Fish Forever campaign for marine sanctuaries in the Bay of Islands?
The answer to this is because I abhor the apathy of the status quo. I object to the idea that we can’t change things; that we’re too late, so the only option is to shrug our collective shoulders and move on in the same direction. Further, I cringe at the human-focused view of the world that puts man at the centre with his tentacles splayed out, mindlessly sucking the lifeblood out of every other natural occurring phenomena to ensure his longevity. The world is a resource to be used and discarded.
It’s the “I’m alright Jack” mentality.
Of course I’m speaking of those fortunate enough to have their basic needs for food, warmth, shelter met. Further, I’m speaking of those lucky enough to be educated, to have choice, to have leisure.
If you’re reading this far, I can pretty much guarantee you don’t consider yourself in the “I’m alright Jack” camp, you’d have turned your eyes heavenward by now hit the red cross in the top right hand corner. I will also hazard a guess that you are among the fortunate ones with an educated mind and well nourished body with the leisure to cruise the internet in between jobs.
In which case, you actually ARE the target of my rant (as am I, I’m not off the hook by any means). YOU are probably the one most at risk of apathy because conscientiousness alone isn’t enough. Awareness isn’t sufficient to make change.
Only the actions we take can we commit ourselves and our future to a different path than Mr and Mrs “I’m alright Jack”.
And that’s why I have been campaigning with an amazing team of volunteers for Fish Forever. Because I believe that individuals can change things. Because, while water is not my natural element, I find our ocean a source of spiritual greatness and I believe that humans have exploited that great vulnerable giant enough.
It may not be my fault, or your fault, or any individual fault. But as a species, we’re guilty. It is the fault of governments making sloppy short-term decisions with their splayed out tentacles that have far reaching effects. But these are governments that we elect, who should be accountable to the people. And therein lies my point – somebody has to start to take account. It has to be the people, and that is you and I.
Please visit www.fishforever.org.nz and get involved while you have a chance.
Please sign the people’s mandate to protect 10% of the geographical area of the Bay of Islands to be protected as no-take marine sanctuaries, with generational review.
And please, most important of all, if you know the Bay of Islands in the Far North of New Zealand, support the tireless work of the Fish Forever volunteers by contributing your views to the areas that should be optioned as marine sanctuaries.
For Langford Ink, these past six months have disappeared in a flurry of marine conservation work. In June 2010, a marine protection campaign was launched in the Bay of Islands. The aim: to establish a network of 100% no-take zones for a generation.
The campaign is called Fish Forever.
To be successful, Fish Forever needs to talk to the community: first, to promote awareness that there’s a problem and generate inspiration to engage with the issue, then to motivate the community to make a difference.
Langford Ink has managed the development of the brand identity for Fish Forever, project-managed the campaign website www.fishforever.org.nz along with the talented Dean Wright and set up and maintained an online persona to engage with our internet-based audience. This a review of where we’ve got to as we enter 2011.
Although New Zealand is a slow adopter of Twitter compared to other westernised nations, I decided that the very first place we needed to find friends was here.
@Wantmorefish came before Fish Forever, before the website and before the Facebook page. At first, I was concerned that having a different ‘handle’ to the main campaign name might be detrimental to the brand identity. Subsequently I decided it is a benefit – it provides a distinction between the group campaign (Fish Forever) and a real-life individual: @Wantmorefish can have opinions; Fish Forever plows a more politically-sensitive furrow.
Followers on Twitter are steadily increasing with time – no massive explosion of popularity but consistency in posting is rewarded. The audience is both homegrown NZ (@marinecentreNZ in Opua, @ranui_organics in Kawakawa) and, excitingly, global with follower-friends from places as far afield as Santa Monica (@thedailyocean) and Amsterdam (@NoFishLeft). The power of Twitter to communicate is mind blowing. However, it remains only a vehicle. It won’t magically get you donations, members, kudos: you have to do the groundwork and generate great content regularly.
There are some interesting avenues to pursue in the new year to achieve real measurable results from our Twitter campaigning that can help our community consultation and fund raising. The first of these is a #nzcommschat planned between @LangfordInk and other local communications tweeters (@AdageBusiness, @comment8tor) to explore how Twitter can be harnessed for the good of non-profit. Also, the Fish Forever web team is planning projects that can cross over from our website through the various social media platforms, into real life and back again.
In October 2010, Malcolm Gladwell got a few people worked up with his article on the ineffectiveness of social media with its ‘weak ties’ to drive people to real-time social activism: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted. This article was brilliant for getting the bloggers, tweeters and Facebook fanatics to take a look at their objectives and debate about the concrete merits of their virtual world. @RWW gives a great summary here of the article and, needless to say, there are plenty of comments after to illustrate the popular viewpoints of the online community.
My view is that Twitter is far-reaching in scope but limited in depth; it has given the Fish Forever campaign an audience of like-minded groups across the globe and it has been an invaluable source of information about the ocean, marine science and conservation. It is heart-lifting to visualise (or ‘virtualise’?) the sheer volume of people who have a genuine commitment to protecting the world’s oceans. Last time I checked, @Wantmorefish was pretty excited about the prospects for marine conservation in 2011.
Originally I didn’t want to be responsible for the Facebook page. The problem of washing my hands of this task was consistency: the Facebook page had to tie in with Twitter and the website. Given that I generate news items for the website by talking to our network of experts who support Fish Forever – items which I then tweet – I am also best-placed to manage the Facebook page to avoid double-handling. Eventually, I conceded that having jumped in at the deep end of online interaction, I now had to wear it. And it’s quite fun…
We have a growing number of ‘likers’ – 190 at last count I believe (good in-road, a long way to go). Facebook has far more penetration in New Zealand than Twitter so we can reach a good chunk of the local audience. We can put images up here, we can share other people’s news items from their Facebook pages, we can have a bit of fun with our comments and chat informally to supporters.
Facebook is intimate without being revealing. Hopefully, we engage on a more emotional level than we do on Twitter and through the more formal face of the campaign website.
What will 2011 bring for the Fish Forever online campaign?
We will continue to develop our campaign website quietly in the background and hopefully source funds to do the more major structural changes that will become necessary as the campaign evolves. We hope to connect with the extraordinary resource of www.marinenz.org.nz – the people who populate this site include some of New Zealand’s most knowledgeable and enthusiastic advocates for marine conservation. They have 1000s of unique visitors per day and could be the most influential connection we make in our online activities. This is something to plan carefully for and engage in fully.
From the web developments, our activities on Twitter and Facebook will become more diverse – key to a successful online persona is relevant and varied content. My two least favourite things about Twitter are: i) people repeating the same mantra over and over (@Wantmorefish tries hard to avoid this trap) and ii) people flooding my twitter stream with inanities, simply to have “presence”. [Notoriously @unmarketing tweeted once a minute as an experiment back in the early days, starting with 140 characters about his tuna sandwich. He fast became a leading exponent of social media, suggesting that saturation can be effective. However, he is #interesting and #hasabrain ... and if you're not familiar with the #funbutridiculous habit of the hashtaggers, you better join Twitter to find out more.]
On a serious parting note, Fish Forever has big ambitions for 2011, both online and – more importantly – offline in real time. The team has a big job to do: many important conversations to get teeth into, many complicated arguments and obstacles to overcome in the political arena, one big cash-rich player to negotiate with/battle and much funding to be sourced. You can help by a) joining up here b) signing our mandate here and c) by sponsoring us here.
Please join us in our fight for Fish Forever in 2011.