Protecting marine life

There are many protected species that live in and use New Zealand's marine environment. These species can be affected by fisheries that operate in the same waters. Learn about our role in limiting the impacts of fishing on marine mammals, seabirds, and sharks.


New Zealand waters are home to fish targeted by our fishing industry, but they're also home to a lot of wildlife and non-commercial species. We aim to manage our fisheries responsibly and sustainably, to reduce the effect of fishing on these animals.

Fishing can affect protected species and their habitats through:

  • incidental capture of untargeted species
  • competition effects (disturbing the balance of ecosystems)
  • habitat modification
  • other indirect effects.

Our work in response

Find out what we're doing to help protect some species that feed or live in our fisheries.

Related work

We address habitat modification through marine protected areas, and areas of protected seabed.

Types of protected species

Protected marine species in New Zealand include:

  • all marine mammals
  • all seabirds (except black-backed gulls)
  • all sea turtles
  • some coral species (black corals, gorgonian corals, stony corals, hydrocorals)
  • some fish species (black-spotted grouper, white pointer sharks, spinetail devil rays, manta rays, basking sharks, nurse sharks, giant grouper).

How species are protected by law

Under the Fisheries Act 1996 (sections 8, 9, and 15), we must avoid, remedy, and mitigate any adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment – including protected species.

Those who kill or injure marine mammals or protected wildlife in any way must report it to a conservation or fishery officer. This includes both commercial and recreational fishing activities. This is a requirement of the:

The Department of Conservation's role

Fisheries New Zealand works closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC), whose role includes protecting and restoring wildlife, nature, and heritage.

Find out more

We work with several external organisations that focus on conservation, to develop education programmes and sustainability solutions.

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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