Valuable Seas

Fishermen untangling a net with birds in the background

Developing ways to incorporate economic, social, environmental, spiritual and cultural marine values in decision-making, and identifying innovative ways to add value to the marine economy

Programme leader: Judi Hewitt, NIWA

Understanding the true value of New Zealand’s marine estate is important if we are to realise its full benefits and demonstrate wise stewardship. We have no stocktake of our natural capital, nor a defined suite of values (social, environmental, cultural, spiritual and economic) or indicators that fully capture the marine economy. Quantifying these values, and the marine habitats and ecosystem processes that underpin them, will improve New Zealand’s ability to prioritise management actions, make informed decisions, and define trade-offs.

We are developing world-leading methods of capturing the economic, social, environmental, spiritual and cultural values of New Zealand’s marine ecosystems using participatory processes developed in Our Seas. We will then link these values to a new economic model that focuses on:

  • Developing innovation in the marine economy
  • Adding economic value while ensuring maintenance or improvement of other values – ie, balancing kaitiakitanga/guardianship and economic benefit

While New Zealand’s marine estate has enormous quantities of natural resources that could be exploited for economic gain, it also has significant social and spiritual value for generations of New Zealanders. There is a perception that the way New Zealand governs and manages its marine estate does not appropriately acknowledge and accommodate Māori and community concerns, views and values.

We are therefore developing processes and measures to define the different values New Zealanders have for our marine environment; and nurture connections between multiple non-monetary (social, cultural, spiritual, biodiversity, and conservation) values, investment and the marine environment.


Development of valuation frameworks and principles

Including people’s values in decision making

We are identifying frameworks and principles that recognise the multiple values people hold for the marine environment, so that different perspectives can be included in ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach that is central to Sustainable Seas.

Mauri Moana, Mauri Tangata, Mauri Ora - documenting social values

How do New Zealanders value marine ecosystems?

We are exploring ways to assess the non-monetary values of coastal and marine ecosystem services, to develop more comprehensive and culturally-appropriate ecosystem accounting and EBM efforts in Aotearoa.

Measuring ecosystem services and assessing impacts

Measuring ecosystem services and how they’re affected

We are linking the social and cultural values that people associate with coastal and marine areas to specific ecosystem services (for example, removing pollutants) that underpin and support these values.

Creating value from a blue economy

Building up New Zealand’s blue economy

We are studying initiatives to create economic value from sustainable marine activities based on resilient ecosystems. We will use the findings to map and model a blue economy, and support policy, decision-making and investment that stimulates resourcefulness, strengthens regional economies, encourages EBM, and underpins sustainable use of our seas

A feasibility study of coastal acidification mitigation strategies for the mussel industry (innovation fund)

Protecting mussel farms from ocean acidification

With coastal waters becoming more acidic, this project is testing two techniques to alleviate local acidification around mussel farms. The results from these trials will then be used in hydrodynamic models to predict their effects on pH in the top of the South Island and the Firth of Thames.

Re-use of offshore infrastructure and platforms: assessing value to communities, industry and environment (innovation fund)

New uses for offshore infrastructure?

We are investigating the environmental, social, and economic implications of decommissioning offshore structures (such as oil platforms). We will specifically look at the impact on Taranaki’s marine ecosystem if end-of-use structures either remain in place or are removed, and explore any associated economic opportunities for the local community.  

Near real-time forecasting using operational oceanographic forecasting of contamination risk to reduce commercial shellfish harvest and beach closures (innovation fund)

Safer beaches and kai moana

Tasman and Golden Bays are periodically closed to the public because of bacterial contamination from local river discharge. This project is creating the first near real-time forecasting tool for the region, which will improve the prediction of when aquaculture sites and beaches are safe to access.

Huataukīna Tō Iwi E: Developing bioactives from Tairāwhiti kīna to combat diabetes, heart disease, inflammation (innovation fund)

Can kīna combat critical public health issues?

The phrase ‘huataukīna tō iwi e’ comes from the waiata ‘Hikurangi’ composed by Kuini Moeau Reedy, based on an old Ngāti Porou phrase that means: when the kaimoana is abundant and the hapū have strings of kīna, whānau are prosperous and healthy. This project aims to create commercial opportunities by developing high-value nutraceutical and functional food ingredient products from kīna (Evechinus chloroticus) from the coastal marine areas of East Coast hapū.

Innovative technologies for the early detection of harmful algal bloom (HAB) threats (innovation fund)

Better monitoring and prediction of algal blooms

HABs are natural phenomena that significantly effect many ecosystem services and values, such as shellfish and fin-fish aquaculture as well as recreational and customary kaimoana harvesting. This project will trial two new, complementary technologies for detecting an monitoring harmful planltonic micro-algae, with the aim of improving the effectiveness and lowering the cost of current monitoring methods.

Energy from tidal currents (innovation fund)

Kick-starting a new marine industry with huge potential

New Zealand has large untapped sources of renewable ocean energy. Tidal currents are a highly predicable renewable energy source, and Raukawa Moana/Cook Strait is arguably the best site in the world for generating power from tidal currents. This project is developing the tools and methods needed to estimate the scale of investment required for wide-ranging scenarios of tidal farm sizes and locations.

Making a new blue economy in Kaikoura: a participatory process approach (innovation fund)

Redeveloping a new blue economy following the November 2016 earthquake

Following the November 2016 earthquakes, Kaikōura’s economy is having to be redeveloped in the midst of huge disruption to marine ecology and everyday social and economic life. This project aims to work with Kaikōura’s communities and businesses to develop a practical, long-term strategy for building a sustainable blue economy, which makes the most of new opportunities to balance social, economic and environmental aspirations - and that complements other efforts to rebuild the region’s economy. This work will provide Sustainable Seas with crucial insights into how to best build blue economies and improve participatory processes for guiding investment and environmental management.

Latest news and updates

Consultation opens re 2019–2024 strategy

Improving marine management is critical to New Zealand's future health and wealth, but research in isolation is not enough. Excellent engagement with, and participation from, all users and sectors of society is essential.

We therefore invite comment on our draft strategy for Phase II (2019–2024). This strategy has been co-developed with Māori and stakeholders.

Video: How current legislative frameworks in NZ enable EBM

Lara Taylor and Tania Te Whenua gave this presentation at the NZ Coastal Society conference.  This research is part of the 'Ecosystem-based management (EBM) within NZ's existing legislative framework' project, which is developing a better understanding of the opportunities and constraints offered by current legislation and decision-making processes.

Video: Making room for enacting Māori values in the marine environment

Caine Taiapa gave a presentation at the NZ Coastal Society conference about enacting Māori values in the marine environment.