Like national parks on land, which provide a safe haven for native flora and fauna, marine reserves provide a secure environment where marine creatures can live and breed with little human disturbance.
Fiordland's ten marine reserves are found from Milford Sound in the north to Preservation Inlet in the south.
They range in size from 93 to 3,672 hectares, and in total include over 10,000 hectares of inner fiord marine habitat. The reserves border the Fiordland National Park and are a fantastic example of natural environments protected from the peaks of mountains to great depths of the fiords.
The marine reserves include a huge variety of habitats and species like sponges, lampshells, and a wide range of fish. They also contain some of the world's biggest populations of black coral trees up to 4-5 metres tall that can be over 300 years old and are home to brittlestars that can only live entwined in the branches of these underwater trees. Fiordland's marine reserves protect relatively untouched areas to ensure that they stay that way into the future. This means that in some reserves there may be few observable changes with time, whereas in others there may be more noticeable changes. It will be a matter of waiting to see what will happen in each new reserve.
Two of the ten reserves, Te Awaatu Channel (The Gut, Doubtful Sound) marine reserve and Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) marine reserve, were initially proposed by the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen and formally established in 1993. The other eight reserves were established in 2005 as part of the management measures proposed by the Guardians of Fiordland.
More information on Fiordland Marine Reserves can be seen on the Department of Conservation website.
The ten marine reserves in the Fiordland Marine Area are (these all open on the DOC website):