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Marine Reserves


"Creating marine reserves is like banking some of our biological wealth - investing in our hugely diverse sea life and habitats for the future."

                                                                                                         - Hon. Chris Carter
                                                                                                           Minister of Conservation


Marine Reserves are similar to national parks on the land. They protect New Zealand's unique and distinctive marine species and their habitats. Marine reserves are the only way to effectively protect a whole marine ecosystem and the many interactions within that ecosystem - systems that we still know so little about.

We have a unique collection of marine reserves in New Zealand.  Many of them are featured in the Marine NZ image gallery. You'll find a summary of each of the reserves in this section, and on DoC's website. You'll also find many articles on New Zealand's reserves in the MarineNZ document and reports archive.



At MarineNZ, we aim to open a window into each marine reserve, so all New Zealanders can see the beauty and diversity that lies in our marine reserves. 

Marine Reserves - Coverage  

New Zealand’s first marine reserve (Cape Rodney – Okakari Point Marine Reserve) was established in 1975 and was one of the world’s first no-take marine reserves. There are now over 34 marine reserves established in New Zealand waters. Over half of these marine reserves were applications lodged by interest groups including tangata whenua, conservation groups, fishers, divers and marine science interest groups. The remaining were applied for by the Department of Conservation.

New Zealand's marine environment is more than 15 times larger than it's terrestrial area, and our Exclusive Economic Zone is fourth largest in the world. However, only a small percentage of this environment is currently protected. 

Collectively, marine reserves protect 7% of New Zealand’s territorial sea. However, 99% of this is in two marine reserves around isolated offshore island groups (Auckland and Kermadec), and very little, in fact less than the area of our smallest National Park (Abel Tasman), in our mainland territorial sea.

Of New Zealand’s total marine environment, just 0.3% is protected in marine reserves. Currently the highest level of protection outside of our Territorial Sea is through fisheries closures on trawling for 18 seamounts. The inclusion of these closures brings the area of marine protection in New Zealand’s marine environment to just over 3%.

Who looks after our marine reserves? 

New Zealand’s marine reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC).  This involves law enforcement, issuing scientific permits, monitoring environmental changes and being responsible for marking boundaries.  Under the Marine Reserves Act 1971, areas of ocean can be protected as marine reserves if they contain "underwater scenery, natural features or marine life of such distinctive quality, or so typical, beautiful or unique that their continued preservation is in the national interest.