The core legal framework in New Zealand for the protection of cetaceans includes the following:
• The Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (this provides for the full protection of cetaceans in New Zealand as well as the compulsory reporting of any capture of marine mammals).
• The Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992 (this prescribes the behaviour of persons, vessels, aircraft and vehicles in the vicinity of marine mammals).
• The Fisheries Act 1996 (this provides protections to marine mammals and other wildlife from fishing-related mortality).Regulations have been implemented under this Act to restrict or prohibit the use of set nets (gill nets) or trawl nets in areas where the endemic Hector’s and Māui dolphins are most commonly found.1
• The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects Permitted Activities) Regulations 2013 (this requires that any seismic survey in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) must comply with the Department of Conservation code of conduct for seismic surveying.2)
The New Zealand Government has established five marine mammal sanctuaries around the coasts of New Zealand3. The relevant legislative instruments establishing these sanctuaries restrict seismic surveys in the whole of the sanctuaries (and seabed mining and some forms of fishing in parts of the West Coast North Island Sanctuary) to increase protection for Hector’s and Māui dolphins. Protection from fishing-related impacts was first provided by regulations issued under the Fisheries Act 1996 in 2003 and then extended in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
In 2014, the Government of New Zealand established three new marine reserves in the sub-Antarctic islands4 (which encompass the breeding grounds of New Zealand southern right whales and expand the proportion of New Zealand territorial sea under protection to 9.5%) and a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour (which sits at the heart of Hector’s dolphin habitat around Banks Peninsula).
In 2013, in response to the ship-strike risk to Bryde's whales in the Hauraki Gulf, the shipping industry adopted the 'Hauraki Gulf Transit Protocol for Commercial Shipping'. This includes voyage planning to allow a voluntary 10 knot speed limit, keeping watch and reporting whale sightings within the main area of ship-strike risk for Bryde's whales. Transit speeds in the Hauraki Gulf have decreased significantly and only one ship strike is known to have occurred since the protocol was implemented, compared with a prior average of 2 per year.
In 2014, New Zealand implemented a package of protection measures for the Kaikoura area, including a marine reserve, whale and fur seal sanctuaries, customary management areas, and revised fishing limits. These measures are designed to contribute to the goal of establishing a comprehensive network of MPAs throughout New Zealand’s marine environment and ensure the long-term viability and conservation of NZ’s premier ecotourism destination.
New Zealand is currently working with local stakeholder groups to establish marine protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf, which supports a population of ‘Nationally Critical’5 Bryde’s whales and ‘Nationally Endangered’5 bottlenose dolphins, and off the southeast coast of the South Island, home to Hector’s dolphins and seasonally visited by southern right whales.
The Government of New Zealand is currently considering a reform of marine protection legislation, with a view to ensuring that appropriate spatial tools exist to manage New Zealand’s coastal marine area to achieve better balance between use and protection, while recognising important cultural factors such as enjoyment of the marine environment. Alongside this potential reform of legislation, the Government has proposed the creation of the 620,000 km2 Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, a globally significant proposal due to the region’s significant and varied biodiversity and geology. Lastly, the Government has agreed to consider creating a marine mammal sanctuary in an area off the coast of Taranaki, where pygmy blue whales are known to aggregate in summer months to feed, raise calves, and potentially breed.
1 This includes, for instance, the west coast of the North Island, areas of the South, East and West coasts of the South Island.
2 The Code of Conduct requires significant pre-survey planning, consultation, and sound modelling, as well as specifying mitigation actions and reporting requirements.
3 These were established in 2008 and include: Te Waewae Bay, Catlins Coast, Clifford and Cloudy Bay, and West Coast North Island sanctuaries. The legislative instruments which achieved the above include the: The Marine Mammals Protection (Te Waewae Bay Sanctuary) Notice 2008; The Marine Mammals Protection (Catlins
Coast Sanctuary) Notice 2008; The Marine Mammals Protection (Clifford & Cloudy Bay Sanctuary) Notice 2008; The Marine Mammals Protection (West Coast North Island Sanctuary) Notice 2008; and The Marine Mammals Protection (Banks Peninsula Sanctuary) Amendment Notice 2008.
4 These were established around the Antipodes, Bounty, and Campbell Islands.
There are four National Regulations and Acts which protect cetaceans around New Zealand.