New Zealand's oceans are threatened on "multiple fronts" as climate change, biodiversity loss and human activities continue to take their toll, according to a report.
A Ministry for Environment report, called 'Our Marine Environment 2019', says it shows the risk to many species including seabirds, 90 percent of which are threatened with or at risk of extinction. Eighty percent of shorebirds are also at risk.
- NZ oceans world's worst for birds eating plastic
- 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic litter Earth's oceans
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch much bigger and deeper than thought
"My first reaction is how did we get into this mess? Large scale climate change, accelerating biodiversity loss, more invasive species, increasing pollution... The challenges that New Zealand faces are not materially different from those elsewhere in the world," NIWA's marine ecology and remote sensing principal scientist, Dr Matt Pinkerton, said.
"The other key findings of the report are the lack of adequate information on most issues affecting our marine environment, and the fact that different pressures interact and can reinforce each other creating complex threats."
It's not just birds who are threatened - 22 percent of marine mammals were also at risk. Dr Pinkerton said it's clear things need to be done differently.
"It is not possible to fight the many-headed challenges facing our marine environment without better long-term information on the issues facing our coasts and oceans."
The report found plastic is the most commonly found pollutant on New Zealand beaches - at 61 percent.
NIWA warns it should be a "call to arms".
- Plastic bag found at the bottom of the world's deepest trench
- 10 rivers causing 95 pct of ocean plastic pollution
- Oriental Bay has some of the world's worst plastic pollution
"We need to commit to better marine observation, to improving our scientific understanding of complex threats, and to develop innovative, cross-agency approaches to managing, using and protecting our marine environment," Dr Pinkerton said.
The Ministry for the Environment urges all New Zealanders to reduce emissions to help protect our oceans.
Little things like taking part in beach clean-ups, and reducing rubbish by recycling can make a huge difference, the ministry says.
"New Zealand's oceans play a huge role in limiting climate pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide."