We love marine reserves

New Zealanders are guardians of a large and unique marine environment - 15 times bigger than New Zealand’s land mass

Situated between the Bay of Islands and Whangarei, Mimiwhangata is exposed to bounteous tropical currents that bring in a rich variety of fish to its shores. It is home to over 70 types of fish from foxfish to tropical surgeon fish. We're working with local iwi to ensure that this underwater wilderness is given the protection it deserves. To find out more about our marine protection proposal see here 

 Although we are a world leader in establishing marine reserves, these reserves still cover just 0.3 % of our marine environment - a miniscule figure, especially given that more than 30% of our land mass is protected in parks and reserves.

Once teeming with life, our marine environments are under increasing threat from a wide variety of human activities. Namely -

Marine Farming 
Mineral Extraction 
Tourist Ventures 
Coastline Development 

All these activities take their toll on our vulnerable marine environments, plants and animals. The establishment of marine reserves allows recovery of marine life.

Marine reserves are “no take” areas protected from the sea surface to the seafloor where no fishing or removal of any other material is allowed. Diving, swimming, boating, kayaking, snorkelling and other activities that don’t harm marine life are permitted in marine reserves.

These reserves are an ocean equivalent of our national parks and provide a safe haven for our marine life. They also offer areas for scientific research so that we can assess the effects we have on them in other areas. Marine reserves also provide fantastic recreational areas where people can learn about our native underwater species as they watch them recover.

New Zealand’s first marine reserve (Cape Rodney – Okakari Point Marine Reserve) was established in 1977 and was one of the world’s first no-take marine reserves. Each year, it attracts more than 350,000 snorkellers, divers, sightseers and marine scientists.

Click to enlarge

New Zealand now has 34 marine reserves, around (see map) which equates an area of 12,795.7 square kilometres. This sounds huge, but actually this only represents only 0.3% of New Zealand’s total marine environment.
The Akaroa marine reserve, near Christchurch became New Zealand’s newest latest marine reserve  in April 2013.

Currently eight marine reserves are on the table.

These reserves are in the final stage of approval-process now that they have been proposed by the Ministers .

They include areas around the sub Antarctic Islands and the West coast of the South Island. If these marines reserves become established full protection of our territorial waters will be bumped up to 0.4%.

Establishing marine reserves to regenerate native populations has been a key campaign for Forest & Bird.

Why do we need more Marine Reserves and where do we need them?

New Zealand needs more marine reserves however we need to be careful as to where we place out marine reserves, so that they cover a variety of ecological niches.

Our two largest marine reserves  are placed around off-shore islands and make up 97% of the total marine protection provided by marine reserves.

Forest & Bird believes we need more –

  • Coastal mainland marine reserves
  • Deep offshore marine reserves

Currently our legislation only allows for the establishment of marine reserves within the territorial sea (i.e 12 nautical miles), so no marine reserves have been established.

The Marine Reserves Bill, the proposed legislation which would allow marine reserves in the offshore marine environment, has received substantial public submissions, yet has still not proceeded to become law.

The fishing industry has proposed an initiative to preserve the sea-floor by prohibiting bottom trawling in some areas around offshore New Zealand. However, these initiatives do little to protect the marine environment because the designated areas are largely unfished – because they are either too deep, or too far offshore for trawlers to venture.

Marine ecosystems are still under threat throughout most of New Zealand’s waters.