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Annex: Summary of Environmental Legislation in the EEZ

General class of effect or activity

Specific effect or activity



Harvest of biological material

Catch of fisheries

Fisheries Act 1996 (QMS and associated provisions)

The Fisheries Act and associated regulations control the harvest of all fish stocks found in New Zealand’s EEZ.  Quota management (QMS) provisions are comprehensive in relation to the management of fish stocks.

Collateral effects of fishing (e.g. by-catch, seabed damage)

Fisheries Act 1996 (environmental provisions)

The Fisheries regulations can be made to manage the impacts of fishing on the environment.  These include tools such as closed areas, closed seasons, or fishing method restrictions.  Implementation of the Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing (SMEEF) is intended to define environmental outcomes for implementing these controls.  While implementation of the SMEEF is in the early stages, there is a wide range of environmental controls available.  For example, Benthic Protection Areas have recently been created in the EEZ.

Scientific research

Fisheries Act 1996 (special permits)

UNCLOS Marine Scientific Research Provisions

The special permits regime covers matters such as investigative research (e.g. bioprospecting sampling).  In considering permits, the Ministry of Fisheries must take into account environmental (and other) provisions of the Act and is able to set conditions on permit.

Foreign researchers require New Zealand’s permission to undertake research activities in our waters.  New Zealand (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) can decline consent on (among others) environmental grounds.

Discharges from ships and installations into sea and air


Maritime Transport Act 1994

Rules provide for a range of controls centred on the regulation and management of discharges to water (and a lesser extent to air), and dumping from (and disposal of) offshore installations etc, largely in line with MARPOL and the London Convention, along with our indigenous oil-spill planning and response requirements.  These provide good coverage of effects.

Seabed disturbance

Petroleum drilling

None – the Petroleum Accord sets out voluntary protocols

Petroleum activities in the EEZ are referred back to the Crown Minerals Act 1991 regime, which does not assess the environmental effects of mining activities on the seabed (the RMA fulfils this role in the territorial sea).  Therefore there is no coverage of environmental effects.

Installation of structures

Continental Shelf Act 1964

The Act has a regulation-making power to (among other things) regulate the construction, erection or use of installations or devices in, on or above the continental shelf in connection with the exploration of the shelf or that part thereof, or the exploitation of its natural resources.

There is uncertain coverage of effects.  No regulations have been made under the Act, and there is no explicit mention of environmental matters in the Act.  The Minister of Energy has broad decision-making discretion, so could impose environmental conditions if he/she chooses.

Removal of seabed minerals other than petroleum

Continental Shelf Act 1964 (CSA)

Prospecting and mining for minerals other than petroleum remain under the CSA and requires a licence for either activity from the Minister of Energy.  The Minister is able to attach conditions to a licence granted under this section.  Other than for safety and royalties, there is no guidance in the Act on what conditions should or may be attached.

As above, there is uncertain coverage of environmental effects.

Disturbance of biodiversity in water or air column

Seismic survey

None – the Department of Conservation (DoC) has produced voluntary guidelines to minimise disturbance to marine mammals

DoC guidelines set out areas of ecological importance and technical methodologies to minimise disturbance.  They are voluntary with no legislative force.

Physical presence of structures


Fixed or floating structures may affect biodiversity resident in or moving through an area.

Effects on species protected by legislation

Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978

A permit is required under the Act for anyone to “take” a marine mammal.  The definition of “take” includes actions that harm, harass, injure and attract.

The Act does not address by-catch, but the Fisheries Act can.  Instead the Act provides for the establishment of marine mammal sanctuaries, within which fishing activities can be strictly controlled by the Minister of Conservation.  There are currently no sanctuaries in the EEZ.

Wildlife Act 1953

This Act sets out levels of protection for different wildlife, listing those birds and animals that fall into each category.  The Act also allows for the protection of different areas.  There are currently no sanctuaries in the EEZ.