Marine environments

  • Image, Marine habitats.

    New Zealand has a marine area of more than 4 million km2. Reporting on the different environments within our marine waters helps us understand the overall state of the marine domain.

    We classified Marine environments as supporting information.

    Key findings

    Our marine seabed (benthic) environment covers our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to 3,000m deep. It can be divided into 15 ecosystem groups (as defined by the Benthic-Optimised Marine Environment Classification, BOMEC).

    • We have three inshore groups, three continental shelf groups, and nine deeper-water groups.
    • Each group represents areas with similar environmental variables, such as depth, temperature, salinity, and suspended sediment.
    • The classification system for these 15 groups considers the distributions of eight benthic taxonomic groups: asteroids, bryozoans, benthic foraminiferans, octocorals, polychaetes, matrix-forming scleratinian corals, sponges, and benthic fish.

    Note: Seabed ecosystem groups identified by BOMEC (Benthic-Optimised Marine Environment Classification), highlighting the variability and diversity of New Zealand’s sea floor. EEZ – exclusive economic zone; NM – nautical miles.

    Definition and methodology

    Our marine environment is highly variable. This means that neighbouring environments are not necessarily similar. Areas relatively close to each other can have markedly different environments. Geographically remote areas can have similar ecosystems (habitats and species).

    The benthic zone is the floor of the marine environment, beginning at the shoreline and extending out to the 200 nautical mile limit of the exclusive economic zone.

    Leathwick et al (2012) developed the Benthic-Optimised Marine Environment Classification (BOMEC), which identifies and maps areas with a similar benthic environment.

    Pelagic (water column) ecosystems still need to be systematically classified.

    Data quality

     Topic Classification Relevance Accuracy
     Marine ecosystems and habitats Supporting information



    See Data quality information for more detail.


    Leathwick, JR, Rowden, A, Nodder, S, Gorman, R, Bardsley, S, Pinkerton, M, … Goh, A (2012). A Benthic-Optimised Marine Environment Classification (BOMEC) for New Zealand waters. New Zealand aquatic environment and biodiversity report No. 88. Available from

    Archived pages

    See Marine environments (archived October 2016).

    Updated 27 October 2016

  • Share this page
  • Share this page to Facebook
  • Share this page to Twitter
  • Share this page to Google+