"One day it will be a given that fishing the entire ocean was damn silly."

Islands & Island Nations 1996

Bill Ballantine

New Zealand
Marine Conservation


A marine biologist and grassroots activist, Bill Ballantine has been successfully promoting the establishment of "no-take" marine reserves both in New Zealand and internationally. These unprecedented reserves are widely considered to be a critical means of protecting marine resources which are quickly being depleted around the globe.

Ballantine, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory, recognized the critical need for marine reserves early in his career. His goal was to set aside areas in the sea where habitat and marine life would be left natural and totally undisturbed by people.

A six-year fight, in which Ballantine was very active, was needed to enact New Zealand's Marine Reserve Act in 1971. This enabled the setting aside of parts of the sea for non-exploitative purposes. Overcoming objections from parochial interests by educating the general public about marine issues, the first marine reserve was established near the Leigh Marine Laboratory in 1977. This was one of the first marine "no-take" reserves in the world. No fishing, extractions, construction, or discharge are allowed in such a reserve.

As Ballantine continued to advocate the creation of additional reserves, acceptance of this novel idea gradually grew. The Leigh Marine Reserve proved so popular and full of abundant marine life that a second one was established in 1981. Today there are 14 reserves in New Zealand, offering a unique opportunity to enjoy and study the sea's natural processes, and at least 25 other proposals are being considered. Ballantine's goal is to convert 10 percent of all of New Zealand's marine habitats to reserves by the year 2000.

Ballantine has been exporting this innovative concept from New Zealand to other countries and is contributing to the development of new marine conservation and fisheries management paradigms around the world. Many scientists view "no-take" marine reserves as the only way to save the world's threatened marine ecosystems.

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