Ballantine’s view on New Zealand MPA policy

Dear MPA News:
As reported in the February 2006 issue of MPA News (7:7), the New Zealand government has issued a Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan, available at My views on it are below:

(A) The bad side

  1. The document’s Foreword states, “The aim is to have 10% of New Zealand’s marine environment in some form of protection by 2010.” This suggests that 90% of NZ’s marine environment will have no form of protection by 2010 – ignoring the fact that all of NZ’s seas have some form of protection now (e.g., no whaling, as well as a raft of fisheries controls).
  2. Despite being based on the need for biodiversity protection, the policy still gives the Ministry of Fisheries a more-or-less equal partnership with the Department of Conservation, and generally assumes that only one or two examples of each habitat or ecosystem will be protected until there is evidence of actual or potential damage.
  3. Lengthy delays could easily occur while classification of habitats/ecosystems/bioregions, etc. is agreed and the definitions of the protection standards are decided. Neither of these things will achieve total agreement or permanency – they are always going to be opinions.
  4. The policy insists on a spectrum of levels of protection while ignoring the need to establish a sustainable system of highly protected marine reserves. Such reserves are the only practical way of ensuring the protection of marine biodiversity – much of which, as the policy states, has not even been described.

(B) The good side

  1. The MPA policy is a step forward if we compare it to what we had before, which was, effectively, no policy.
  2. The policy, at last, puts marine reserves on the official radar screen. Arguments in favor of more and better marine reserves now have some official standing.
  3. It provides some noteworthy guidance on marine reserves. A summarizing brochure released with the policy, for example, includes the statement, “The government intends that at least one example of each habitat or ecosystem included in the MPA network will be protected by a marine reserve. Marine reserves will also be used to protect outstanding and rare sites.”

The policy itself includes the statement, “Marine reserves will be used under the MPA Policy to contribute to the network via:

  1. Selection as the most appropriate tool(s) in the MPA planning process; and
  2. Selection to meet the government decision that marine reserves will be used to protect:
    1. representative examples of the full range of marine communities and ecosystems that are common or widespread;
    2. outstanding, rare, distinctive, or internationally or nationally important marine communities or ecosystems; and
    3. natural features that are part of the biological and physical processes of the marine communities and ecosystems referred to in (i) and (ii), in particular those natural features that are outstanding, rare, unique, beautiful, or important.”

The above will probably be used to create a representative system of marine reserves, and could be used to develop a sustainable one.

Bill Ballantine
Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand. Tel: +64 9 422 6071; E-mail:; Web:

Ethical argument for MPAs

Dear MPA News:

I strongly support Bill Ballantine’s statement of the rationale and principles behind MPAs (“A Marine Reserve Manifesto”, MPA News 7:7). The oceans are experiencing a crisis driven by human impacts. Fishing, pollution, habitat damage, and the translocation of organisms have caused huge and increasing damage. Are these impacts wise or ethically right?

To quote the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity 1996 ( “There is in the community a view that the conservation of biological diversity also has an ethical basis. We share the earth with many other life forms which warrant our respect, whether or not they are of benefit to us. Earth belongs to the future as well as the present; no single species or generation can claim it as its own.”

It is time that MPA experts and advocates begin using an ethical argument to support the creation of reserves: that we need to set aside large areas of the oceans simply to provide peaceful coexistence with ocean inhabitants. It is one thing to kill a fish and eat it. It is another to destroy ecosystems and their inhabitants. We share this planet; we don’t own it.

Jon Nevill
Director, OnlyOnePlanet Consulting, PO Box 106, Hampton, Victoria 3188, Australia. Tel: +61 422 926 515; E-mail:; Web: