A network of Marine Protected Areas
New Zealand has a particularly rich and complex seascape, making it a world hotspot for marine biodiversity.
This biodiversity is the foundation for some of our most productive fisheries. The government is setting up a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect examples of our different marine habitats and ecosystems, as well as those that are outstanding or rare. Like our land-based Protected Natural Areas network, this will make sure some of our biological wealth in the seas is ‘banked’ as an investment for future generations.
Some areas are already protected by marine reserves, Fisheries Act closures, and cable protection zones. These have each been set up to achieve slightly different purposes and have not been part of a planned network. MFish and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have developed a Marine Protected Areas Policy to create a network of MPAs in the future.
Building on the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, the objective of the MPA Policy is to protect marine biodiversity by establishing a network of MPAs that is comprehensive and representative of New Zealand’s marine habitats and ecosystems.
MPAs may include a number of protection tools including marine reserves, special legislation, marine parks, customary management tools, fisheries closures, marine mammal sanctuaries and potential cable exclusion zones.
A coastal classification system has been developed to define bioregions, which have similar marine plants and animals, and to list the different habitat types within each bio-region. The classification system has detailed the types of habitats and ecosystems that require protection.
At the same time a protection standard was developed that covers methods to maintain marine habitats and ecosystems and to allow areas to recover.
Information will also be collected on the plants and animals in the different habitats and the extent to which people use various areas. This will be important to identify the range of marine habitats to protect while minimising impacts on current users.
MFish and DOC are working together to progress marine protection under this policy. They will work with communities and stakeholders to plan for areas of protection and to determine what marine protection tools would be most suitable for those areas. The first four bio-regions where MPA plans will be developed are the west coast of the South Island and the sub-Antarctic Islands – which are already underway – Otago/Southland and the Hauraki Gulf.
In the short term, the focus of marine protection will be on the Territorial Sea (from the coast out to 12 nautical miles offshore). This is where the problems are more immediate and most acute. The risks to marine biodiversity are greatest here, where the highest economic, social and cultural values are generally found.