A six-year fight, in which Ballantine was very active, was needed to enact New Zealand’s Marine Reserve Act in 1971. This enabled the setting aside of parts of the sea for non-exploitative purposes. Overcoming objections from parochial interests by educating the general public about marine issues, the first marine reserve was established near the Leigh Marine Laboratory in 1977. This was one of the first marine “no-take” reserves in the world. No fishing, extractions, construction, or discharge are allowed in such a reserve.
As Ballantine continued to advocate the creation of additional reserves, acceptance of this novel idea gradually grew. The Leigh Marine Reserve proved so popular and full of abundant marine life that a second one was established in 1981. There are now several reserves in New Zealand, offering a unique opportunity to enjoy and study the sea’s natural processes, with more proposals being considered all the time.
Ballantine has exported this innovative concept from New Zealand to other countries and is contributed to the development of new marine conservation and fisheries management paradigms around the world. Many scientists view “no-take” marine reserves as the only way to save the world’s threatened marine ecosystems.
Ballantine passed away in November 2015, leaving behind a proud legacy. He was described by New Zealand environment minister as “the father of marine conservation in New Zealand”.