New Zealand used to lead the world in marine protection but during the last two decades it has slipped behind other countries, according to a Queensland-based academic.
Hugh Possingham from the University of Queensland says the government needs to radically change the way it protects ocean environments.
He says many nations, including New Zealand, sidestep commitments to marine conservation by protecting large areas of open ocean, which are not highly used for anything else.
Government figures show about 7.06% of New Zealand waters are protected.
However, 97% of that is far offshore rather than in heavily exploited coastal areas, which can be more important for biodiversity.
“Marines reserves in New Zealand are actually a very small percentage. They’re too small.
“I think it really does need a systematic overview of all New Zealand’s waters,” he said.