New Zealand pioneered marine reserves, areas in the sea protected from all direct human interference. The first reserve was proposed in 1965 and established in 1977. It has operated successfully ever since. Even one instance proves that such things are possible. All marine reserves in NZ were initially greeted by a range of objections, and widespread and often loud opposition, This is not surprising since marine reserves prohibit many existing activities and seriously challenge many general opinions. Such opposition is to be expected. Successful establishment of marine reserves in the first stage was only possible when the proponents were very persistent and had community support. It helped if they could take advantage of some special local circumstance e.g. an adjacent marine laboratory (Leigh), spectacular underwater scenery (Poor Knights), unique biogeography (Kermadecs), cultural significance (Mayor Island), or severe fishery problems (Long Bay). Careful examination of the objections to marine reserves showed that they were mostly based on misconceptions or misinformation, and can be successfully countered in the public mind by answers based on common sense arguments or well-established facts. Developing these answers, and testing them in the public arena, proved surprisingly useful in both scientific theory and practical politics. When marine reserves were established, their ecology began to change, due to the cessation of fishing and other previous manipulations. These changes were complex, often large and continued to develop for decades. The study of these changes, and a continuing comparison to fished areas provided a great deal of new scientific data showing how fishing directly and indirectly alters ecosystems. The scientific benefits of marine reserves proved so numerous that it became clear that marine reserves are as important to science as clean apparatus is to chemistry, and for the same reason. They are the controls for the uncontrolled experiment that is happening due to fishing and other human activities. The general benefits of marine reserves to society as a whole; directly to conservation, education, recreation and management, and indirectly to fisheries, tourism and coastal planning; are so important that a systematic approach to their creation is in the public interest. The experience with existing marine reserves (35 to date) is sufficient to state the principles needed for such systems: representation and Replication (of habitats and species); a geographically widespread network; and a total area sufficient to be self-sustaining. Most of the lessons from New Zealand are based on fundamental human and ecological factors and would be applicable world-wide. Other regions could by-pass the long struggle that occurred in New Zealand and move directly to creating marine reserve network systems based on our experiences and these principles. This has already started to happen in Australia and the USA.
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