Marine Protected Areas

New Zealand is home to a biologically rich and extensive marine environment  - one that is the 5th largest in the world.

What are marine reserves? 

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, 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. 

We were once world leaders in protection, when we established the first no take marine reserve in the world back in 1977.

Since then we have lagged behind internationally in marine protection by failing to establish a meaningful network of marine reserves. 

To date we have 44 marine reserves - a figure that sounds impressive, however the reality is this represents less than 1% (0.43%) of our marine environment.




The Threat

Currently just over 12% of our marine environment has been allocated for mining or oil and gas permits. 

 In addition to this most of NZ’s marine environment is open to fishing.

Where is NZ’s marine protection? 

Most of NZ’s marine protection, almost 98% is found around offshore islands (the Kermadecs and the Sub-Antarctic islands). Just a fraction of coastal mainland NZ is protected.

Let’s compare this to our land –more than 30% of NZs land is protected in parks and reserves.

What does Forest & Bird want?

Forest & Bird would like to see a meaningful network of marine reserves – throughout NZ waters. 

However establishing reserves in our deeper waters off New Zealand is impossible because there's a lack of legislation. Marine reserves can’t be established in deep waters (areas beyond 12nm into our EEZ). 

 By establishing a network of marine reserves we would become a world leader in ocean management and help to: 

  • Safeguard our marine environment from oil and gas mining 
  • Build our eco-tourism industry
  • Protect biologically unique habitats and our marine biodiversity
  • Support our fisheries 
  • Support marine science
  • Educate young people about the importance of marine reserves