Marine biosecurity in New Zealand

Biosecurity is the exclusion, eradication or effective management of risks posed by pests and diseases to New Zealand's economy, environment and human health. The Ministry for Primary Industries is the government agency charged with leadership of the New Zealand biosecurity system, including marine biosecurity. But everyone has a role to play.

Most non-native marine species that have been introduced into New Zealand have arrived with shipping, either attached to the submerged surfaces of ships ("biofouling") or in the ballast water carried by large vessels to maintain stability. As a small, isolated archipelago, New Zealand depends on shipping and other maritime industries for trade, security and economic development. Our isolation from other continents also means that our native marine ecosystems are unique. They contain many species that do not occur anywhere else in the world. As global trade increases and shipping networks expand and diversify, more marine pests and diseases have the opportunity to reach New Zealand.

Marine traffic

Density of global shipping [Source:]

Once they become established in our waters, marine pests and diseases can be spread by a variety of means, including recreational boating and fishing and through movement of infested marine equipment, seawater or seafood. The Ministry for Primary Industries has implemented a range of measures to:

  • reduce the risks that non-native marine species will be transported to New Zealand by international shipping,
  • detect them early to facilitate their removal or control, and
  • reduce their spread and impacts within New Zealand.

You can read about some of these measures in the pages below or visit the Ministry's website for more information.

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New Zealand has strict conditions regarding the discharge of ballast water into New Zealand waters.


All vessels entering New Zealand waters are required to have a clean hull.

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A national programme of surveillance occurs in 11 ports and harbours throughout New Zealand to facilitate early detection of potentially harmful marine plants and animals


The Marine Invasives Taxonomic Service provides access to the best available marine taxonomists within New Zealand and internationally for timely identifications of suspected foreign marine organisms.

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Regional councils and central government are working together to reduce the spread of marine pests and disease throughout New Zealand.

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Every year, millions of people enjoy the range of exceptional outdoor activities available in New Zealand's marine environments. Find out what you can do to be a part of our national marine biosecurity team.