These sections outline New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment.

Supply Chain

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to ensuring supply chain integrity within the seafood industry.


These sections outline New Zealand's approach to the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

Marine conservation.

New Zealand has a suite of conservation measures to protect marine species and biodiversity.
All marine mammals and reptiles, most seabirds and corals, and many other marine species are fully protected under New Zealand law.
Around half of the world's total number of whale and dolphin species have been recorded in New Zealand's waters and nearly a quarter of the world's seabird species breed here. Because of New Zealand's isolation, many marine species are endemic - they are found only in New Zealand.
Over 15,000 marine species have been identified in New Zealand waters but scientists estimate that there may be as many as 65,000 species.
This section provides an overview of New Zealand's approach to managing populations of protected species and the spatial tools used to protect marine biodiversity. More information on the legal and policy frameworks implemented by the Department of Conservation, as well as the seafood industry's obligations and contributions to achieving marine conservation outcomes can be found by clicking on the Related Sections, Deeper Reading or downloable PDF features.

New Zealand seafood is produced in an environment that is rich in marine habitats and species diversity. New Zealand has therefore developed and implemented a large number of laws, regulations, policies and planning processes to help maintain, protect and restore marine biodiversity.

Marine conservation is legislated primarily through the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, the Wildlife Act 1953, the Marine Reserves Act 1971 and the Fisheries Act 1996. These Acts empower the Government, through the Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries (Fisheries New Zealand), with various legal and enforcement mechanisms to protect species or areas for the purpose of marine conservation and biodiversity.

The following conservation measures are currently in place in New Zealand;

National Plan of Action (Seabirds) 2020
National Plan of Action (Sharks) 2013
Hector’s and Maui Dolphin Threat Management Plan (2007)
New Zealand Sea Lion / Rapoka Threat Management Plan (2017)
– 44 (Type 1) Marine Reserves
– 19 (Type 2) Marine Protected Areas
– 17 seamount closures
– 17 Benthic Protection Areas
– various other Fisheries Act measures.

The seafood industry is legally required to comply with all measures to protect marine species and all area closures established for marine biodiversity protection purposes.

New Zealand takes a multi-stakeholder approach to conservation. The Department of Conservation, Fisheries New Zealand, seafood industry and other stakeholders (including customary and recreational fishers, other resource users and environmental groups) all play a part in the development and implementation of marine conservation measures in New Zealand.

Information provided by the seafood industry continues to fill knowledge gaps with regards to marine biodiversity and species protection. The seafood industry helps fund marine biodiversity research through fisheries cost recovery levies. The levies partly cover New Zealand’s Aquatic Environment Research Programme – which focuses on the direct effects of fishing on the aquatic environment – and the Biodiversity Research Programme – which focuses on issues related to the functionality of the marine ecosystem and its productivity.

The seafood industry also typically pays around $2 million per year in conservation services levies that support the Department of Conservation’s Conservation Services Programme.

Research used in making conservation management decisions goes through comprehensive technical and peer review processes. The findings are then summarised annually and released publicly via the Aquatic Environment and Biodiversity Annual Review report.  This information is also used by fisheries managers in making determinations about conservation measures necessary for particular fish stocks, area and methods.

Of New Zealand's marine species, 35% of seabirds and 28% of marine mammals are threatened with extinction as a result of multiple historic and present-day pressures.
New Zealand Government
Ministry for the Environment & Statistics New Zealand
It is not illegal to unintentionally interact with a protected species in the course of legitimate fishing activities. However, commercial fishers must report all incidental captures of protected species, whether alive or dead, to the regulator. More details about the interactions between commercial fishing activities and marine protected species can be found under "Associated Species".
Marine Conservation Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points from this section. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Marine Conservation Section Detail Report
To learn more about the marine conservation framework in New Zealand, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
Marine Conservation Infographic
Download a visual summary of the key conservation statistics.
Marine Protected Areas Map
Download a map showing the geographical distribution of New Zealand's marine reserves, marine protected areas, benthic protection areas and seamount closures.
New Zealand's Marine Protected Area network and Benthic Protected Areas have been acknowledged for their contribution to marine biodiversity in numerous international publications, including from the United Nations Environment Programme.
Failure of commercial fishers or vessel owners to comply with conservation measures could result in fines, forfeiture of fishing gear and/or imprisonment. Compliance is monitored via electronic monitoring systems (for vessels where these are required by fishing regulations) and by standard enforcement activities, including land-based and vessel-based patrols, inspections and investigations.
New Zealand's approach to managing protected species and marine conservation aims to be consistent with at least 17 international and regional agreements to which New Zealand is a signatory. These include the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels and Convention on Biological Diversity (through the Aichi targets). The Department of Conservation also represents New Zealand on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is referenced from the OpenSeas Section Detail Report (downloadable above).

The OpenSeas report was prepared by a technical expert, with demonstrable knowledge and experience in the topic at hand. An internal fit-for-purpose review was conducted by the OpenSeas Programme Director, which may have included external scientific or operational expertise.

An external scope and accuracy review was conducted by the relevant regulatory agency(ies) (i.e. New Zealand Government departments) for the original report.

The report author was responsible for revising the report in line with recommendations from reviews and retains final responsibility for the report content.
Section Detail Report Author:
Nici Gibbs
Director, Fathom Consulting Limited
Page last updated: 2 January 2023
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