Protecting marine life

Learn about our role in reducing the impact of fishing on marine life. Find out about specific work for marine mammals, seabirds, and sharks.

Our fisheries work to help protect marine life

New Zealand waters are home to a lot of wildlife species that are not caught commercially. To help protect them, and keep fishing sustainable, we aim to:

  • ensure that fishing is responsible and sustainable
  • reduce the effects of fishing on these animals and the environment.

Negative effects of fishing on the environment include:

  • capturing species that are not targeted by fishers (bycatch)
  • disturbing the balance of ecosystems (competition effects)
  • modifying habitats
  • other indirect effects.

Our work for protected species and non-protected sharks

Find out what we're doing to help protect some species that feed or live in New Zealand waters.


Sea lions



Protected marine species in New Zealand

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 marine 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. This includes protected species.

People who kill or injure protected wildlife must report it to a conservation officer or MPI fishery officer. This includes if it's caused by recreational or commercial fishing activity.

Contact a fisheries office

Contact the Department of Conservation (DOC) to report wildlife that are injured, sick, or dead.

Contact us – DOC

These requirements come from the:

Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 – NZ Legislation

Wildlife Act 1953 – NZ Legislation

Working with the Department of Conservation

Fisheries New Zealand works closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC). DOC's role includes protecting and restoring wildlife, nature, and heritage. For example, DOC supplies surface longline vessels with special equipment to safely release turtles if they get caught in fishing gear.

Conservation Services Programme – DOC

Working with external groups

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 how we manage the effects of fishing on marine life, email

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