Greenpeace says the need for global ocean sanctuaries on the high seas is urgent and profound, with a new report revealing nearly half of all endangered migratory animals are in decline, while one in five face extinction.

Whales, sharks, rays, turtles, and seabirds all feature in the State of the World’s Migratory Species report released yesterday by the UN Environment Programme, but the world’s most threatened listed species are fish. Overexploitation (such as hunting and fishing) and habitat loss caused by human activity were named the two biggest threats to all migratory animals.

Greenpeace Aotearoa oceans campaigner Ellie Hooper says it’s clear urgent action is needed.

“It’s devastating to see how destructive fishing and pollution are putting life on this blue planet at risk, including creatures that visit the waters of Aotearoa.

“The threat of extinction for amazing creatures such as the Southern right and humpback whale, and the Toroa (Antipodean albatross) is very real, but there are solutions on the table that can turn this around. 

“Creating a network of fully protected ocean sanctuaries on the high seas would allow these animals places to rest and feed on their epic voyages across the ocean. To do this, we need governments to act with urgency – and ratify the Global Ocean Treaty now.”

In 2023 UN member states agreed on a Global Ocean Treaty which, once implemented, would allow for the establishment of vast ocean sanctuaries in international waters, where destructive activities such as fishing and mining are outlawed. 

The New Zealand government was an early signer of the Treaty in September but has yet to ratify it into law.

“Near and far, the ocean is in crisis,” says Hooper.

“All of us care about protecting wildlife like whales and seabirds and the overall health of our blue planet. But we need leaders to act. 

“We need New Zealand to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty so that protected areas can be created to safeguard these migrating creatures and the ocean at large. This is our best shot at reversing their decline.

“This new report has listed the New Zealand storm petrel, southern rockhopper penguin, New Zealand sea lion and Pacific bluefin tuna as globally threatened, and closer to home, we’ve seen reports of a thousand starved New Zealand fur seals.

“Urgent change is needed.  The government must look at the evidence and listen to the vast majority of New Zealanders who want strong ocean protection, not more decline. 

“There is no time to waste, and they must get on with enacting real ocean protection rather than pandering to short-term commercial fishing interests that put profit before the health of us an this planet.”

This week, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Shane Jones dined with commercial fishing industry bosses, some of whom have donated to Jones’ political campaigns. The Minister says he wants to advocate for the commercial fishing industry in his role. 

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