Located in the Fiordland region
Fiordland’s marine reserves offer excellent scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities - there are 10 marine reserves where all marine life is protected.
Visitors can dive or snorkel in Fiordland’s marine reserves independently or with one of the tourism or charter boat services available.
Read about diver safety in the fiords to get the best out of your Fiordland diving experience. As the fiords are fragile environments, follow the diver safety and diving care codes.
Fiordland's marine reserves are found from Milford Sound in the north to Preservation Inlet on the southwest of the South Island.
Piopiotahi/ Milford Sound is accessible from Te Anau via the Milford Road.
Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānui may access the reserve to remove pounamu provided they have any required resource consents and/or authorisation by the kaitiaki rūnaka. Pounamu must be collected by hand, with minimal disturbance to the site and only so much as you may carry in one trip.
Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānu are also permitted to remove deceased marine mammals and collect teeth and bones found within the reserves.
Take-off and landing of aircraft is permitted within the reserve.
There are specific no-anchoring areas in some of Fiordland’s marine reserves. These areas are home to particularly fragile species that could be damaged by an anchor or its swinging chain.
Recreational, educational and scientific activities are encouraged as long as they do not disturb or endanger the plant and animal life or natural features. A permit is required from DOC for any scientific research within the reserve.
Because of limited suitable space for storing rock lobster pots in Fiordland, five areas within four marine reserves are designated for commercial rock lobster fishers to store live lobster caught outside the reserve in holding pots and to store inoperable rock lobster pots (with doors open). These five areas are shown on the maps for the following marine reserves:
They are not open for use by recreational fishers.
Right of passage through the marine reserve is not affected by the reserve status of the area.
The forty metre band of fiord life
The environment below the water in Fiordland is as unique as its acclaimed landscape above.
Runoff from heavy rainfall on the mountains creates a permanent freshwater layer on the surface of the saltwater that varies in depth from 5 cm to over 10 metres.
Tannins, washed out of the vegetation on land, stain the water the colour of weakly brewed tea. This creates a dark layer on the surface that cuts down the amount of light entering the sea water, restricting most of the marine life to the top 40 metres. This band (below the freshwater layer) is calm, clear and relatively warm and is home to sponges, corals and fish of sub-tropical, cool water and deep water varieties.
The fiords support one of the world’s largest populations of black coral trees (about 7 million colonies), with some of them up to 200 years old.
The fiords are also home to brachiopods; clam-like animals that have remained relatively unchanged for over 300 million years.
Although the fiords extend to depths of over 400 metres, life peters out quickly in the gloomy depths. The thin band of life extending around the shores of all 14 fiords is estimated to make up a habitat area of only 42 square kilometres, less than the area of Bluff Harbour on the Southland coast. Because of the small habitat area and the limited opportunity for exchange of material across moraine sills at the entrance to the fiords, these environments are vulnerable to over-fishing.
Bottlenose dolphins (aihe), New Zealand fur seals (kekeno), Fiordland crested penguins (tawaki) and little blue penguins (kororā) are resident in the fiords. Do not stress these animals by approaching them. Let close contact be at their initiation.
Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) works with other agencies and the Fiordland Marine Guardians to protect the Fiordland marine environment. Find out about the Fiordland marine biosecurity programme and how it has been applied in the response to an invasive seaweed.
|Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre|
|Phone:||+64 3 249 7924|
|Fax:||+64 4 471 1117|
Fiordland National Park
Te Anau 9600
PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
|Full office details|