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There are more species of fish than there are plants, birds and animals combined. Ricky Gervais says so.
While Gervais, the genius behind The Office, makes the observation in fun as part of his stand-up comedy routine, it’s one for far more serious consideration.
Fish, and aquatic life in general, play an important part in the foodchain that includes homo sapiens – that’s us, folks.
So looking after the fish makes good sense which means taking good care of their habitat – the oceans, streams and estuaries is also a pretty good idea.
But how to do that may not be immediately obvious, especially if you live a long way from the coast.
“The trick to it,” says Steve Brightwell from the Department of Conservation, “is to think about water, and how water on land gets to be water in the sea.”
Water is really powerful, and especially good at moving stuff from place to place.
“The tops of mountains are ground down by frozen water then transported along rivers until they end up as sand on our beaches.”
It can also move huge rocks, mud and silt and dissolve all manner of chemicals and pollutants.
“And that all has to end up where the water stops flowing – usually in the estuaries which are the most important breeding places for sea-life.”
So the take home message here is try and avoid creating water flows where they don’t naturally exist and try to avoid letting things get into water that don’t crawl there by themselves.
In practice that means thinking about retiring stream margins from stock grazing, disposing of contaminants where they can’t enter waterways and a whole stack of other things.
“Some will be specific to certain activities or locations – such as making driveways that let rain soak in rather than concrete ones where the water runs off to somewhere else,” Brightwell says.
The important thing is to think about what effect your plans might have on estuaries and the ocean, (and almost every human activity ends up having some effect on water in some way!) then seek advice on the best way to deal with the issue.
That’s where some of the many agencies concerned with biodiversity protection, such as the Department of Conservation, Environment Bay of Plenty and district councils, come in.
Brightwell says all share an interest in making sure the environment is in the best condition possible for those critters and plants that naturally have a home here.
“And we’re all pretty happy to lend a helping hand or offer advice to make sure the lakes, rivers and estuaries of the Bay of Plenty continue to offer plenty to Bay residents in generations to come.”