The Challenge

Sea-going vessel with Research written on the side travelling near the coastline

The objective of the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge is to enhance the value of New Zealand's marine resources, while providing a healthy marine environment for future generations.

What New Zealand has

New Zealand’s marine estate is 20 times larger than our land mass, and we have the 4th largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world. New Zealand’s marine resources include fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, oil and gas, minerals, renewable energy, shipping and more. 

The sea is also an important part of the New Zealand lifestyle and culture – for food, recreation and spiritual well being. 75% of New Zealanders live within 10 km of the coast, and Māori connections with the sea are particularly strong. 

There is a growing conflict between New Zealand’s many uses of the marine environment, including its important marine economy and protection of the marine environment. 

What New Zealand could have

There needs to be a new way of managing New Zealand’s marine resources that considers multiple uses, values and sources of knowledge, and combines the needs of Māori, wider communities, and industry, with new evidence from scientific research.

We need a tool that enhances use of marine resources, but ensures that our seas are understood, cared for, and used wisely.

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) can be this tool. It recognises interactions within ecosystems and with humans, and balances the use and conservation of resources. It is a holistic and inclusive way to manage the competing uses for, demands on, and ways New Zealanders value our marine environment.

The challenge is to:

  • Engage with New Zealanders to understand the cultural, spiritual, economic and environmental values of our marine environment
  • Investigate and describe the impacts of natural and human stresses on marine ecosystems
  • Overcome impediments to enhanced resource use
  • Uphold commitment towards Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the sharing of information, resources and opportunities, as well as learning, action and shared decision-making

Latest news and updates

Social licence and NZ aquaculture

Our research has found that personal relationships go a long way towards aquaculture companies gaining/maintaining community acceptance and social licence to operate.

New resource: Understanding kaitiakitanga in our marine environment

This publicly-available report examines mātauranga associated with the marine environment, and explores themes and why they are important to consider in decision-making. It also indexes the reference sources of this varied mātauranga, and signposts where to go for further detail.

Video: The Unseen

The story so far: 14 workshops, 1,300 school children and 15km of rope!

This arts-science-education project is working with communities and school children to explore the risks associated with environmental and climate change, and how this might affect the way we manage New Zealand’s marine ecosystems.