Who needs a Marine Reserves Act permit?

If monitoring or research within a marine reserve includes any activity that would otherwise be an offence under the Marine Reserves Act a permit will be required under that Act.

Permits required

For example the following sampling techniques would otherwise be an offence and hence require lawful authority:

  • the use of toxic substances (e.g. Rotenone for sampling fish);
  • taking samples of marine life;
  • taking non-living samples (includes shell, rock, sand or marine artefacts);
  • taking specimens to the surface for measuring and later release;
  • handling species underwater (e.g. lifting kina to measure);
  • catching fish (e.g. lining, potting);
  • tagging of fish or other marine life;
  • placing structures on the sea bed (e.g. cages, exclusion devices or traps).

No permit required

Sampling techniques that involve simply counting or measuring marine life in situ and without interference to marine life do not require a Marine Reserves Act permit. This includes:

  • underwater visual census;
  • underwater video / sled tows;
  • invertebrate counts or measurements in-situ (e.g. paua or kina are measured in-situ on the rock without their movement).

However, please contact the Department of Conservation if you are planning on conducting any research in a marine reserve regardless of whether you believe you need a permit. This helps us understand what research is being undertaken and confirm whether or not a permit is required.


The Marine Reserve Regulations (1993) requires that applications for approval to undertake any specified scientific study shall be made in writing to the Director-General, not later than 2 months before the intended date of commencement of the study.


Contact the local DOC office for guidance on consultation as this varies from region to region in keeping with local protocols. For example, in some cases applicants are encouraged to carry out iwi consultation themselves while at other times the Department may take on this role.


Permit processing fees may apply, please contact your local DOC office to find out more.

Other permits

Applicants must consider authorisations that may be required under other legislation, in particular:

  • DOL Health and Safety Regulations and Dive Safety Plans to ensure a safe working environment.
  • Fisheries Act Permits to “take” fish life. Includes activities such as collecting, measuring and returning marine life to the sea
  • Resource Management Act if structures will be fixed to the seabed (e.g. cages, current meters and other electronic equipment), or toxic substances such as Rotenone used
  • Animal Ethic Approval if live animals will be manipulated.
  • Safe Ship Management certification for all vessels.

How to apply

Download the application form and email or post to your nearest DOC office.

Scientific research in a marine reserve appliction form (PDF, 44K) & (Word, 91K)


List of concessions contacts 

Related links

back to top