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Marine biodiversity

This page explains how our Ministry contributes to marine policy issues concerning biodiversity, including case studies on Wellington Harbour and Fiordland.

We contribute to the following marine policy issues:

We are also working with other agencies to improve information and planning processes for managing marine biodiversity.

The framework for managing fisheries

New Zealand’s Fisheries Act 1996 requires that fish stocks are utilised in a sustainable manner. This means we need to sustainably harvest target fish stocks while also maintaining marine ecosystems and non-target species. Stock management is done by setting catch limits through the quota management system. 

Pressures on marine life from fishing include direct harvesting pressure as well as indirect pressures from trawling and dumping of offal on habitats, as well as bycatch of non-target species, including marine mammals and seabirds.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is responsible for ensuring that New Zealand's fisheries are sustainably used. More information about the management of fisheries can be found on the Ministry for Primary Industries website.

Managing impacts on marine biodiversity at a regional level

This programme provides advice and information to support regional coordination in managing marine biodiversity, and policy development at both a national and regional level.

It aims to:

  • develop ecological models to improve marine biodiversity management
  • identify things that prevent or encourage the achievement of biodiversity goals at a regional level
  • provide advice and information to regional and national policy-makers on how constraints may be overcome, and opportunities fostered.

Wellington Harbour/Cook Strait

This study is being carried out in collaboration with the Wellington Regional Council. It focuses on coordination between agencies, information management and community participation. Planned and current actions include:

  • the formation of a community-based advisory group
  • development of a greater Cook Strait marine environmental classification
  • a series of lectures on community interactions with the biodiversity of Wellington Harbour and Cook Strait
  • an investigation of legislative and policy 'theory and practice' that impacts on biodiversity in the harbour and strait
  • development of a regional metadata database, to make readily available scientific, community-based and traditional knowledge and information about the biodiversity of the region.


This study focuses on the activities and fortunes of the Guardians of Fiordland’s Fisheries and Marine Environment. The Guardians are a group of marine stakeholders who received support from the Sustainable Management Fund to develop an Integrated Management Strategy for the Fiordland area.

A draft strategy was released in October 2002. The strategy promotes the use of a range of existing tools and processes (for example, taiapure, marine reserves) to promote sustainable use and protection of marine biodiversity. The strategy will be supported by a Marine Geographical Information System, currently under development by the University of Otago’s Marine Sciences Department, funded under the Biodiversity Strategy Funding Package.

Find out more on the Fiordland Marine Guardians website.