Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are natural areas with limited extractive activities (fishing or mining) and lower human impacts. These areas are essential for ensuring marine species and habitats thrive.

Globally our ocean - and the species that call it home - is in trouble due to the impacts of overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.

To help turn the tide on biodiversity loss, global treaties like the United Nations High Seas Treaty (also known as the Agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction or BBNJ) and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) commit the nations of the world to protect and conserve 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

MPAs are an essential tool to protect and restore our marine environment and lessen the impacts of human activity and climate change. Marine Protected Area also benefit the communities and industries that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, such as commercial and recreational fishers and tourism operators. 

© Kobeh/WWF

New Zealand has a Vibrant Ocean

Aotearoa New Zealand is a biodiversity hotspot, with our ocean supporting at least 80 percent of our native species. New Zealand's waters have a huge diversity of habitats and underwater features that makes it a paradise for marine life to thrive.

New Zealand is also the seabird capital of the world and a hotspot for whales and dolphins. We have thousands of fish, invertebrate and seaweed species. Because New Zealand is isolated and remote, many of our marine wildlife is unique to New Zealand and found no where else on earth, such as the Hector's dolphin, New Zealand sea lion, yellow-eyed penguin, or giant stargazer.

Our ocean is exceptional, but it is being negatively impacted by human activity. Heavily utilised areas like the Hauraki Gulf are more vulnerable to these impacts and are on the verge of ecological collapse.

Marine protected areas are an important way we can protect these habitats and species from harm. But despite our ocean territory being 15 times larger than our landmass, New Zealand currently has less that one percent of its ocean areas protected.

WWF continues to advocate for more MPAs in New Zealand to protect our precious and unique native species and habitats.

© & Monique Fallows/WWF

Why MPAs matter

Marine protected areas (MPAs) create a safe place for marine life where they are safeguarded from the impacts of human activity, such as fishing and gas exploration.

The global target of 30 percent protection of our oceans by 2030 is recognised internationally as a pathway to protect and restore our marine environment.

MPAs protect and restore ecosystems by allowing fish populations to rebuild and recover from overfishing. A healthy ecosystem leads to more resilience to other threats, such as pollution and invasive species. MPAs also  help build resilience to climate change by reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon sequestration.

More MPAs in New Zealand would not only benefit our environment, but also benefit the communities and industries that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. Aotearoa’s unique marine environment and abundance of biodiversity is one of the things that draws people to New Zealand, and a healthy ocean is vital for New Zealand’s our tourism sector.

They increase food security, job security and financial security for people. MPAs can also benefit the commercial and recreational fishing sector because by allowing fish to thrive in protected areas, this can create a ‘spill over’ effect where fish from inside the protected areas can help build fish stocks outside the protected areas.

With fishing activity limited, fish inside an MPA also grow to their maximum size, producing exponentially more eggs, increasing fish stocks everywhere. 

What We Are Doing

WWF is working with government, business, industry, iwi, hapū, and communities to progress an increase in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) both locally and globally. 

  • Advocating for 30 percent of New Zealand’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone to be protected by 2030. Sign our petition to add your support for 30x30.
  • Advancing the creation of a network of well-designed MPAs that upholds the rights of tangata whenua and recognise indigenous approaches to ocean conservation
  • Pushing for a new fit-for-purpose legislative framework to replace the outdated Marine Reserves Act 1971 
  • Campaigning for much needed marine protection in the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana
  • Advocating for the establishment of the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary / Rangitāhua
  • Supporting efforts to extend MPAs within the wider Pacific

The Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana

Climate change and human activity – both on land and at sea – has taken an incredible toll on the health and mauri of the Gulf. We need to protect this taonga for future generations and allow its marine ecosystems and resident native biodiversity to recover and build resilience.