The Department of Conservation has the statutory duty to protect certain marine animals as defined in the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.
For the purposes of the Conservation Services Programme, marine protected species include:
- all marine mammals
- all seabirds (except black backed gulls)
- all marine reptiles
- black corals (all species in the order Antipatharia)
- gorgonian corals (all species in the order Gorgonacea)
- stony corals (all species in the order Scleractinia)
- hydrocorals (all species in the family Stylasteridae)
- nine fish (deepwater nurse shark, white pointer shark, whale shark, basking shark, oceanic white-tip shark, manta ray, spinetail devil ray, giant grouper and spotted black grouper)
In all instances it is not only the animal, but any part of the animal (dead or alive) that is protected.
While the sustainable management of fishery resources is the statutory responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries (Fisheries Act 1996), the protection and conservation of seabirds, marine mammals and other protected species is the responsibility of the Minister of Conservation.
Since 1995, the New Zealand government has been implementing a scheme to recover from the domestic commercial fishing industry a proportion of funding required to investigate and mitigate the impacts of fishing on protected species of marine wildlife (Conservation Services).
Conservation Services Levies are:
- approved by the Minister of Conservation.
- collected by the Ministry of Fisheries.
- set annually following extensive consultation between relevant government agencies and stakeholder groups.
Conservation Services are defined in the Fisheries Act 1996 (as amended in 1999) as being outputs produced in relation to the adverse effects of commercial fishing on protected species, as agreed between the minister responsible for administering the Conservation Act 1987 and the Director-General of the Department of Conservation, including:
- Research relating to those effects on protected species.
- Research on measures to mitigate the adverse effects of commercial fishing on protected species.
- The development of population management plans under the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.