New Zealand’s ocean environment

This page for kids gives an overview of New Zealand’s ocean environment.

New Zealand’s marine environment is just over four million square kilometres of ocean. We have the fourth largest marine environment in the world and that’s pretty impressive considering there are 81 countries that are larger than us in land area. 

Different habitats

Our marine environment has lots of different seascapes. Most of us have seen different types of beaches and rock pools but over two thirds of our marine environment is actually under the surface at more than 1000 metres deep. Much of this no one has seen. In these depths it is estimated that more than 700 seamounts (mountains in the sea) exist. Many of these seamounts are larger than New Zealand’s largest land mountain – Mount Cook. There are also many plains and trenches.

The huge variety in seascape in our marine environment means that it is home to many different creatures. Each having adapted to the surrounding habitat. Some live here all year round while others just visit at certain times of the year. These species and the ocean environment is worth protecting and learning about.

Different creatures

In New Zealand’s oceans, over 15,000 marine species have been named and this number keeps growing. There are around seven new species named every two weeks and scientists think there are another 35,000 species in our marine environment yet to be discovered. Almost half the world’s cetacean varieties (whales, porpoises and dolphins) have been seen in New Zealand’s waters. New Zealand’s marine waters also support the greatest number and variety of seabirds in the world. Many of these seabirds live and breed around New Zealand, while others only visit to dine on our fish. Our marine environment is also home to lots of different species of fish, shellfish, squid, crabs, lobster, sponges, starfish, kina, and seaweeds, just to name a few. Some scientists believe that there may be up to 10% of the world’s marine species living in the waters around New Zealand. That is a lot of different homes and lives that we are responsible for.

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