In 1995 a group of concerned local Fiordland users and community representatives formed the Guardians of Fiordland’s Fisheries Inc, which later became the Guardians of Fiordland’s Fisheries and Marine environment Inc (the Guardians). The Guardians included commercial and recreational fishers, charter boat and tourism operators, environmentalists, marine scientists, community representatives and tangata whenua (Ngai Tahu).
The formation of the Guardians was in response to concerns about the escalating pressures on the Fiordland Marine Area and a desire that the local community be more involved in the management of Fiordland’s marine environment.
At their first meeting, the Guardians adopted the following vision:
That the quality of Fiordland's marine environment and fisheries, including the wider fishery experience, be maintained or improved for future generations to use and enjoy.
Guided by this vision the Guardians developed the Fiordland Marine Conservation Strategy (the Strategy). The draft Strategy was published in October 2002.
Gaining stakeholders' agreement to proposals for the integrated management of the Fiordland marine environment was a major success for the Guardians. In agreeing stakeholder groups relinquished benefits in the interests of ensuring the quality and sustainable management of the Fiordland marine environment and fisheries. The Guardians of Fiordland referred to this process as the "gifts and gains".
One notable proposal agreed upon was for the protection of small, discrete areas containing items of special significance. These areas have become known as "china shops".
The finalised Fiordland Marine Conservation Strategy was presented,to the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister for the Environment. The Ministers made a commitment to implement the strategy by September 2005.
An Investigative Group was appointed by the Government to report on how best to implement the Strategy. This group was made up of representatives of central and regional government and the Guardians. In September 2004 the Government accepted a review of the strategy recommendations and agreed to:
All of these have now been realised with the enactment of the new Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Management Act 2005 (the Act).