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Bill Ballantine, the Father of Marine Reserves

Updated on May 19, 2013

A New Zealand Marine Reserves scientist and supporter

Bill Ballantine is a world renowned scientist who has been studying and pushing for marine reserves in New Zealand for over forty years. He is based at the Auckland University campus at Goat Island Marine Reserve, which he helped establish, and was part of the Auckland University Marine Biology department until his retirement.

He has been a major part of the New Zealand political landscape as a force for better marine protection and is probably the best known marine biologist in New Zealand. Many of the few books and studies available on New Zealand marine reserve were either written or directly influenced by, or include a foreword from him, including 22 scientific journal articles. He was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize by the United Nations in 1996, and was the 2004 recipient of Wyland Foundation-Dive New Zealand magazine recognition award .

He's also a bit of a character - having long ago lost patience with respective governments dragging their feet, and communities whipping themselves into a panic every time a new reserve is proposed!

Have you heard of Bill Ballantine?

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The creation of a marine reserve is like a drunk trying to get a key into a lock:

"You have to be at the right door, and be holding the right key, but beyond that it's just persistence."

MarineNZ - Bill Ballantine's Homepage - A website about marine reserves

New Zealand's leading in marine conservation, but what is there to cheer about

"if you're leading in a race of arthritic tortoises?"

Appearances In Documentaries - As a respected scientific expert, Bill Ballantine has appeared in documentaries

Bill Ballantine appears in at least two recent documentaries:

  • "Water Whisperers Tangaroa" - a local New Zealand production about water conservation, directed by Karen Gallagher

    It can be purchased from their website.

    You can watch the trailer here or below, he appears at 1:04 minutes in.

  • One Ocean - a four-part documentary about the ocean, produced by CBC's the nature of things and Merit Motion Pictures, in association with National Geographic Channels International.

    His 'Meet the Experts' biography is here and you can buy the complete DVD of One Ocean on Amazon.

    I'm guessing he mainly appears in the second episode, 'Footprints in the Sand'. He doesn't appear in either of the trailers available on YouTube.

Ordinary marine management doesn't do anything until there's some sort of problem

Allowing fishing in our marine parks was...

"not just wrong but pathetically silly".

"A hundred thousand people a year coming to look at fish—who saw that coming? Nobody. Fifteen years ago, if you had suggested that entire school classes would be put into wet suits and taken into the water here you would have been laughed at. Now it's routine."

Quick, what do you think of Bill Ballantine?

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"If nothing is left intact or pristine, how can you know that damage has occurred?"

"I've been recommending 10% of everything for a quarter of a century now, and that is what we'd need for science and recreation and education.

Good Books About Marine Reserves - From guidebooks to textbooks, start with these titles for more information!

A Guide to New Zealand's Marine Reserves
A Guide to New Zealand's Marine Reserves

A really good and accessible guidebook to all the reserves of New Zealand. I own this, and bought my parents a copy.


"Would your grandchildren really object if you made too many marine reserves?

I doubt it."


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    • Commandrix profile image

      Heidi 6 years ago from Benson, IL

      Neat! Bill Ballantine sounds like my kind of guy. It takes real dedication to do what he's doing. :)

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I love trenchant experts - send himm to Britain while we have a few species left, please.