The Value of Marine Reserves

New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to embrace fully protected ‘no-take’ marine reserves. Established in 1977 the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point (Goat Island) Marine Reserve is our first, and probably most iconic. Today there are 44 fully protected marine reserves scattered around the mainland and our offshore islands. These predominantly cosy up to the coastline, providing protection for nearshore or shallow water environments.

Fully protected marine reserves offer respite for marine organisms and environments against the impacts of fishing, both commercial and recreational. By removing these pressures, the populations of targeted species are given a chance to recover. Over time the ecosystems within marine reserves should theoretically revert back to a more ‘normal’ state - ones that would have existed prior to the intensification of fishing.

Having spent three years studying at the Leigh Marine Laboratory (on the doorstep of the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve) I have seen first-hand the value of marine reserves.

From the conservation of important species and ecosystems through to the economic gains from eco-tourism the benefits are multi-spectral. They also provide important tools for helping us understand marine ecosystems and processes and the impacts that humans are having on our natural environment.

The benefits can also extend well beyond the boundaries of protection as demonstrated in a recent study by Marine Scientists at the University of Auckland. Within a 400 km2 area around the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve, 10% of all juvenile snapper caught were the offspring of snapper persisting within the marine reserve boundaries. Given the marine reserve only accounts for 1.3% of the 400 km2 study area, snapper within the marine reserve are having a large effect on the wider snapper population.

For more information on this study, watch the video here.