Looking over Tonga Island Marine Reserve from Tonga Quarry Beach
Image: Stew Roberston | ©


A new DOC patrol boat to protect Tasman Bay’s two marine reserves comes as a birthday present for Tonga Island Marine Reserve which this month marks its 30th anniversary.

Date:  22 November 2023

The new 7.5-metre Osprey boat has capacity for 12 passengers and replaces a 6.5-metre vessel. It has more capability, including with use of remotely-operated underwater monitoring equipment and being a purpose-built dive platform. It also has radar and search lights for operating at night.

Mana whenua iwi have blessed and named the new boat Aorere, reflecting its area of operation, Te Tai-o-Aorere/Tasman Bay. The boat is locally made, being custom-designed and built by Osprey Boat Builders in Nelson and fitted out by Mārahau Marine Services.

Aorere will primarily be used for patrolling to check for illegal fishing in Tonga Island Marine Reserve, off Abel Tasman National Park, and Horoirangi Marine Reserve, north of Nelson city. It will also be used for scientific monitoring of the reserves’ ecosystems and other DOC marine-related work.

DOC Motueka Marine Reserves Ranger Stew Robertson says the new boat, with its advanced capability for supporting marine reserves work, is a fitting way to mark Tonga Island Marine Reserve turning 30.

“Both Tonga Island and Horoirangi marine reserves enable amazing experiences of marine life in abundance in their natural habitat. We encourage people to go and enjoy the reserves through diving, snorkelling, swimming and boating.

“Marine reserves act as control sites for studying the health of the wider marine environment. Monitoring of marine reserves and fished areas outside reserves shows changes in the protected area in comparison to the unprotected area, including in species abundance and diversity, and climate change impacts.

“In Tonga Island Marine Reserve in particular, after 30 years with no fishing, many marine species are significantly more abundant and larger inside the reserve, including crayfish and blue cod. These marine species can then overspill from the reserve into surrounding areas.

“It’s important people abide by marine reserve rules to protect these marine refuges. No taking, harassing or damaging of marine life is allowed.

“People going fishing near marine reserves must make sure they know where the reserve boundaries are and stay well outside them. Boats accidentally drifting into a reserve is not a valid excuse. Inside marine reserves, stow fishing gear away so it’s clear that no fishing is taking place.

“If anyone sees people illegally fishing in marine reserves, they are asked to:

  • call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

We ask people, if they can, to get photos and details of people and vessels involved and when and where it occurred.”

Anyone who illegally fishes in a marine reserve can be issued a $600 infringement notice fine. Serious or repeat breaking of the rules may result in those involved being prosecuted and facing penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and three months in prison. Fishing gear used in the offending may be forfeited.

Events are taking place over summer to celebrate Tonga Island Marine Reserve’s 30th anniversary, including guided snorkel trips with Tasman Bay Guardians, and a mural depicting the marine reserve being painted on the toilet block by the Kaiteriteri boat ramp.


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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