Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!


Bronwen Golder, Director of the Kermadec Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Lines in the ocean

In her December 2014 Rutherford Lecture Dame Anne Salmond spoke of the impact of early cartographers on our impressions of the ocean. The map lines they drew, she suggested, were a simplification – a kind of imperialism that partitioned and measured our abundant ocean within boundaries that allow us to dominate it.

Since the time of Cook’s naval charts, lines have defined our ocean. A line at 12 nautical miles marks out New Zealand’s territorial sea. New Zealand’s EEZ is delimited by a line in the ocean 200 nautical miles from shore (including our outlying islands). A line defining New Zealand’s continental shelf lies yet further out.

There are lines on maps that define how government manages our ocean. Ten straight lines divide our EEZ into 10 fisheries management areas. On other maps large lego-block-shaped areas overlay our EEZ, showing modern explorers for oil, gas and minerals where they may go to pursue economic returns.

However, you will struggle to find maps that profile the important and sensitive areas of our ocean, the pathways of migrating whales and turtles or indeed the final refuges of endangered species. On a map of our vast ocean territory you would struggle to find the almost invisible 0.5 percent bounded by lines that define areas that we are protecting.

Since Cook’s first maps the lines that have been drawn across New Zealand’s ocean have defined ownership and access. The time has long since passed for New Zealand to draw new lines that respect the connectedness, unique character and vulnerabilities of its habitats, species and processes – lines that protect it.

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