Located in the Taranaki region
The islands and reefs in the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area are close to Port Taranaki in New Plymouth and are a popular diving spot. The deep water is home to a variety of marine life and the scenery is spectacular. In summer and autumn underwater visibility can reach 20 metres so these are the best times to dive.
Dive shops and the New Plymouth Sports Fishing and Underwater Club regularly dive the area and can provide advice on the best locations and conditions. Divers must display a dive flag while diving to alert boat operators of their presence.
Recreational fishing is a popular activity in the Marine Protected Area. Individual fishers are restricted to one rod with a maximum of three hooks. Set netting and long lining are banned. Species taken include kingfish, kahawai, snapper, blue cod, trevally, blue moki, sweep, red gurnard and tarakihi. Normal recreational size and bag limits apply.
Game fishing for tuna, marlin and mako shark is popular further offshore during summer and early autumn.
The Marine Protected Area borders the northern boundary of the Tapuae Marine Reserve. You cannot fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve.
Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area borders Tapuae Marine Reserve. Be aware the rules of these adjoining areas differ. You can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve.
Check fishing rules in the area before you go fishing. You need to check for:
Boundary GPS Points (WGS 84)
Just offshore from New Plymouth is the stubble of an ancient but massive volcano much older than Mt Taranaki. Formed 1.75 million years ago, soft rock has long since been eroded away leaving a group of low sea stacks and seven islands that provide a unique semi-sheltered environment along an otherwise exposed coastline.
The Marine Protected Area comprises seabed, foreshore and water around Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands. It backs onto the northern boundary of the Tapuae Marine Reserve.
The subtidal marine habitats around the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands include: spectacular canyons, caves, rock faces with crevices and overhangs, large pinnacles, boulder fields and extensive sand flats.
There are at least 89 species of fish, 33 species of encrusting sponges, 28 species of bryozoans and 9 nudibranchs.
The Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands are important for 19 species of seabirds, with approximately 10,000 seabirds nesting here. A breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals is there too.
The Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area was established in 1986 to control both fishing (under the Fisheries Act 1983) and non-fishing (under the Harbours Act 1950) activities. The formal protection of this area was supported by a traditional blessing with a tohunga (priest) placing a rahui over the area.
Concern about the areas degree of protection against oil prospecting and development led to the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area Act 1991. The Act included a prohibition against mining.
Local Māori called the islands Ngā Motu – 'the islands', and were actively living on them when first European settlers arrived. In 1770 the guano deposits reminded James Cook of the way sugar in Europe was stored in heaps or loaves and he named the islands the Sugar Loaf Islands. In the 1820s a whaling station was established on Moturoa Island.
The 1,404 ha Tapuae Marine Reserve is on the rugged Taranaki coast close to New Plymouth and adjoins the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. It hosts a diverse and flourishing range of sea life.
To protect Māui dolphin and the marine environment there is a set net ban, a Marine Protected Area, part of a Marine Mammal Sanctuary and two marine reserves in the Taranaki region.