Last updateTue, 18 Apr 2017 8am

Marine Protected Areas

SugarloafThere has been much talk of different forms of marine protected areas. Not everyone is always clear what each of the terms really means, who can establish them and for what purpose, and what their likely effects might be in time. This section describes each form of marine protection and includes case studies of key New Zealand MPAs. You can download a complete version as a PDF here

The term Marine Protected Area (or MPA) is used loosely, tightly and specifically, which can be confusing. Loosely, it refers to any marine area with some protection, which is all of New Zealand’s territorial sea. Used tightly it should refer to marine areas that have restrictive rules intended to protect marine life and the environment, rather than just harvested fish stocks.

New Zealand 2008 government policy defines it as “An area of the marine environment especially dedicated to, or achieving, through adequate protection, the maintenance and/or recovery of biological diversity at the habitat and ecosystem level in a healthy functioning state”. The term is used site-specifically for only the Sugar Loaf Islands MPA, under its own empowering 1991 Act.

Sugar Loaf Islands 

The term Marine Protected Area is used site-specifically for only the Sugar Loaf Islands MPA, under its own empowering 1991 Act. The Sugar Loaf Islands area was originally managed as a Marine Park under the Fisheries Act, but has been managed under its own special MPA legislation since 1991. In that area commercial fishing, except trolling for kingfish and kahawai, is not allowed. Individual fishers are restricted to one rod with a maximum of three hooks and set netting and long lining are banned. Spoil dumping and activities that may disturb the foreshore and seabed are restricted throughout, including anchoring by commercial vessels, mining and drilling.

In terms of outcomes, it has maintained a recreational and customary fishery, but did not do much for recovering marine life to its natural state. The local desire for such a place resulted in the establishment of a much larger marine reserve on its southern boundary in 2008. You can find out more about Sugar Loaf Island MPA here.

Other MPA resources

MPA policy: www.biodiversity.govt.nz/seas/biodiversity/protected/mpa_policy.html#mpapolicyplan

DoC website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/marine-and-coastal/marine-protected-areas/

Fisheries information

Fisheries Act: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1996/0088/latest/whole.html#DLM397974

Mfish MPA website: http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Environmental/Seabed+Protection+and+Research/MPA/default.htm (may change with merger)

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