The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research is warning of disastrous environmental effects if New Zealand does not introduce a strategy to manage its oceans.
Chairman Chris Mace says a national policy is urgently needed to balance competing pressures on the sea's resources.
Mr Mace says without a strategy, the cumulative effects on the environment could be catastrophic and eventually stifle any further economic growth from marine resources.
Marine management is fragmented, with agencies managing activities in a reactive way, he says.
The Environmental Defence Society has also called for better policy around ocean planning, suggesting an official inquiry is needed.