Author(s): Kate Mulcahy, Raewyn Peart and Abbi Bull
New Zealand is fortunate to have a very large and biodiverse marine area, hosting over 17,000 known marine species, with many thousands yet to be discovered. But this rich variety of marine life is coming under increasing pressure. Three endemic marine mammals are threatened, as are over sixty per cent of ocean-going seabirds and many species of sharks and marine invertebrates. Historically, New Zealand has achieved significant success in marine protection. But today the country is far behind international best practice. Fiordland is the only mainland coastal biogeographic region which has more than one percent pf its area safeguarded by marine reserves. Several regions have no protection at all. Extensive benthic protection areas have been created in the exclusive economic zone, but these are not representative, and none are fully protected. This report reviews New Zealand's current marine protection framework, developments in other countries, and international best practice. It identifies weaknesses in New Zealand's current approaches in the context of its international obligation to achieve a representative network of marine protected areas. The report then provides recommendations for the design of new marine protection legislation, which is essential if New Zealand is to effectively manage its oceans.