Though sea snakes and kraits are occasional visitors to New Zealand’s waters, they are considered a native species under the Wildlife Act 1953. This is because they arrive here naturally from time to time on ocean currents (rather than by human transportation).
It is therefore illegal to kill or harass a sea snake, or possess one or any part of one without a permit.
Sea snakes and kraits are highly venomous but, as they are docile creatures, there is no record of anyone in New Zealand being bitten. Nevertheless, if you find a sea snake or krait keep well away and call 0800 DOC HOT.
Occurences of sea snakes and kraits are displayed in the Atlas of the amphibians and reptiles of New Zealand.
Report all sightings and strandings of sea snakes and kraits by:
- calling 0800 DOC HOT, or
- filling out an Amphibian & Reptile Distribution Scheme (ARDS) card.
Yellow-bellied sea snakes
Around 6 to 10 yellow-bellied sea snakes are sighted each year, mostly around the north east coast of the North Island, though they have been discovered as far south as Cook Strait.
Beached yellow-bellied sea snakes will almost certainly be dead or dying, as they are entirely pelagic (they cannot live on land). They breed in the tropics and spend a large amount of their lives drifting on the ocean currents.
They can dive up to 50 m for 3-4 hours, depending on the temperature of the water, and feed on small fishes.
Unlike sea snakes, sea kraits spend part of their time on land, drinking fresh water and laying their eggs there.
Two species of sea krait occasionally visit New Zealand waters – the banded sea krait and Saint Giron’s sea krait. They are likely to be accidental visitors as New Zealand is outside their normal (tropical) range. They are found abundantly in the reef systems around Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia, and their usual prey is eels.
Another species, the brown-lipped sea krait, is an extremely rare visitor to New Zealand.
See the Atlas details for these species: