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Auckland Islands Marine Reserve

The Auckland Islands reserve covers an area of about 484,000 ha in the Southern Ocean surrounding the Auckland Islands.  It extends out to deep sea ecosystems at 3,000 m depth covering breeding grounds of the Southern Right whale, NZ sea lion and yellow-eyed penguin.

The location of the new marine reserve is between latitude 50’ 16” south and 51’ 19” south and longitude 165’ 32” to 166’ 39” east, approximately 460 kilometres south of the South Island of New Zealand. The reserve stretches for 12 nautical miles around the islands and not only protects relatively shallow inshore areas up to 100 m deep but also deep ocean environments down to 3,000 m deep.


The Auckland Islands has an abundance and diversity of seabirds, is the primary breeding ground for the New Zealand sea lion and 30% of the world’s population of the yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) breed here. All these species are totally reliant on the surrounding sea for food. This is an international first for a habitat of the yellow-eyed penguin being completed protected across the land/sea interface.


At present research has shown that the ecosystem and species of the marine environment at the Auckland Islands are unusual and poorly understood. By giving marine protection there is opportunities to protect and study the significance and vulnerability of these habitats and species.

New Zealand (Hooker) sea lions are the rarest and currently the most endangered of the five species of sea lion in the world. They have a very limited distribution and range and can be found breeding at only a handful of sites in the Auckland Island group. They also breed in small numbers on Campbell Island and Stewart Island but 95% of pup production occurs on the Auckland Islands. This species is endemic to southern New Zealand with a population estimated to be between 11,600 and 15,200.

The birds found on the islands include Gibson’s albatross and white-capped mollymawks who are dependent upon the land during the breeding season, but all these birds rely on the sea for food. Whilst feeding their chicks it is not unusual for the adults to spend over five days at sea harvesting the food-rich waters that make up the new marine reserve.

The Marine environment includes abundant numbers of arrow squid, a major element in the food web that supports the species on the Auckland Islands. Also found are blue moki and trumpter and impressive kelp forests along the eastern shores. The large crustacean, the Auckland Island spider crab is also in abundance. The Southern Right Whale, hunted out last century, is making a comeback with more than 90 being counted in the sheltered waters of Port Ross during the winter breeding season.


Find out more on the DoC website, or check out the following link(s):

What is special about the Auckland Islands area?