The two areas singled out for protection in a proposed Bay of Islands marine reserve were chosen after canvassing both scientific and popular opinion, the community group behind the proposal says.
Last week Fish Forever launched a proposal for a no-take reserve split into two areas, one of about 1000ha around Okahu and Waewaetorea islands and the other about 900ha adjoining the Rawhiti Peninsula. The proposal takes in 6 per cent of the Bay's waters.
Fisheries ecologist John Booth, of Rawhiti, said the two areas had been chosen for their rich complexity and because they were representative of many of New Zealand's marine environments.
Okahu Channel in particular, between Okahu and Waewaetorea Islands, was world-class for its range of ecosystems, all of which could easily be seen by a snorkeler. Maunganui Bay, on the Rawhiti Peninsula, was a hotspot for subtropical species rivalling the Poor Knights.
Fish Forever member Jochen Zameschmar said the two areas had not been pulled out of a hat but were based on research and more than 430 public submissions over the past two years.
The group had deliberately left out fishing hotspots such as Hole in the Rock and Whale Rock, which was just outside the proposed boundary.
''That wouldn't have flown, it's such a popular fishing ground.''
Mr Zameschmar expected opposition to the proposal but said most people agreed some sort of marine protection was required. The real argument was about where that protection should be.
In any case the proposal only covered 6 per cent of the Bay's waters.
''I say to fishermen, if you need more than 94 per cent of the Bay, either you're a lousy fisherman or there just aren't many fish left.''
Go to www.fishforever.org.nz to make a submission or mark on a map the areas you think should be protected.