'Pretty embarrassing': The poor state of the Hauraki Gulf

A new report has revealed the Hauraki Gulf, which is often thought of as a pristine, unique marine environment, is suffering. 

The new State of our Gulf 2020 report reveals little has been achieved in keeping the area sustainable since the marine park was established 20 years ago. 

Dr Shane Kelly, an Environmental Consultant told Newshub "By and large, most of the marine issues that existed when the park was established have remained unresolved".

The seabed is suffocating with plastic and sediment and reef-dwelling crayfish are now functionally extinct.

Crayfish normally feed on kina but without crayfish, kina are taking over the area and destroying the kelp forests which used to flourish.

Auckland University Marine Scientist Dr Andrew Jeffs said every New Zealander should feel embarrassed.

"New Zealand claims to have one of the world's leading fisheries management schemes - the quota management system and to see a decline in a fishery to the point of a functional extinction is a pretty embarrassing situation."

The report found the number of marinas is increasing, along with the population, and six new marine pests have arrived in the Gulf.

Today just 0.3 percent of the Gulf is protected with marine reserves and fish are also being affected.

But the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is focusing on the positives.

"45 predator-free islands is a significant achievement."

She says work's underway to create more change, including more marine protected zones or possibly banning bottom trawling in the Gulf. 

"I'm not the Minister of Fisheries, but that is a conversation that is being had at the moment."

The report showed commercial Danish Seiners are fishing in prohibited areas, the numbers of small bait fish are significantly down and snapper and Tarakihi stocks are overfished or depleted. 

Stuart Anderson the MPI Director of Fisheries Management said they are constantly monitoring the state of the stocks in the gulf.

"We have already put some cuts in place around Snapper, Tarakihi, rock lobster," he said.

GM Fishing Sanford Colin Williams disputes snapper stocks being at risk - saying he's seen new Niwa data that suggests otherwise. 

"The science we have now is a relative biomass from the last survey and it's increasing exponentially, so I guess people have different views from different scientists."

It's not just fish species in peril, 22 percent of our seabirds are now classified as threatened, up from just 4 percent 20 years ago. 

The deaths of black petrel, largely due to longline commercial fishing, are listed in the reports as "unlikely to be sustainable".