Looking after our ocean
© Daniel Versteeg / WWF

Looking after our ocean

Restoring ocean health for the benefit of people and nature

Aotearoa New Zealand has a diverse range of coastal and marine environments, habitats, and species. We want to make sure it stays that way.

The health of our marine environment is deeply connected to our own health and wellbeing. The ocean provides food, regulates our climate, and generates most of the oxygen we breathe.

In New Zealand, our marine environment is 15 times larger than our landmass and home to up to 80 percent of our native species. From the Hector’s dolphin to the blue cod, many of the creatures that inhabit our waters and coastal areas are found nowhere else on earth.

But only a tiny fraction of our ocean is protected, and we need to do more to protect our treasured marine species and habitats from the increasing threats they face from overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change.

In December 2022, New Zealand and other countries around the world signed up to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), a global treaty which aims to halt and reverse the loss of nature by 2030.

WWF-New Zealand works to protect and restore the health of the ocean and help New Zealand meet the targets of this Global Biodiversity Framework. Our current focus is on advocating for more sustainable fisheries, halting the decline of marine biodiversity, advocating for the creation of more marine protected areas, putting nature at the heart of climate action, and promoting a healthy ocean.

© naturepl.com / Chris Gomersall / WWF

Sustainable fishing

It is estimated that more than three-quarters of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited or overfished. Unsustainable, destructive and illegal fishing practices are depleting wild fish stocks, destroying fragile marine habitats, and putting many marine species at risk of extinction.

Poor fisheries management, worsened by climate change, is the largest threat to ocean life and habitats - and to the billions of people around the world who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods.

WWF works to improve fisheries management, create more sustainable fisheries practices, and reduce the number of species accidentally caught in fishing nets in New Zealand and globally.

© Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas are places where activities such as fishing or mining are limited. They are essential for ensuring marine species and habitats thrive.

To help turn the tide on biodiversity loss, the Global Biodiversity Framework commits the nations of the world to protect and conserve 30% percent of the world’s land, freshwater, and ocean by 2030.

Globally, this will mean more than tripling the extent of marine protected and conserved areas. Within New Zealand, less than 1 percent of our marine and coastal biodiversity is fully protected and we have a big task ahead.

WWF advocates for the creation of a network of well-designed and managed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) that upholds the rights of tangata whenua and recognises indigenous approaches to ocean conservation.

We have long campaigned for the creation of a Kermadec / Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and new MPAs in the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana.

© Erling Svensen / WWF

Protecting Benthic Environments

About 98 percent of marine species inhabit the seabed, either within, on, or just above it. The deep-ocean floor, referred to as the benthic area, spans over half of the Earth's surface. This vast underwater landscape is home to millions of species making it an exceptionally rich and biodiverse ecosystem.

Although largely unexplored, the deep seabed is extremely vulnerable, and in need of protection from the impact of human activity. Two of the biggest threats to benthic environments are bottom trawling on seamounts and similar features and proposed deep sea mining for minerals.

WWF is fighting to protect our precious benthic marine habitats from harmful activities such as mining and bottom contact fishing.

Get involved

Deep sea fish

Stop Deep Seabed Mining

A global moratorium on all deep seabed mining activities is urgently needed.

3 Antipodean albatross

Help protect marine species

Help protect New Zealand marine species and their habitats by adopting a penguin, albatross or dolphin.

penguin entangled in fishing net

End Plastic Pollution

Help end plastic pollution in the ocean by showing your support for an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty.

Oceans News