Spanning almost 240,000 square miles, New Zealand’s new Kermadec ocean sanctuary will be one of the largest and most significant fully protected ecosystems in the world.
The sanctuary will be located approximately 620 miles north-east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean and will expand over an existing protected marine area surrounding the Kermadec Islands. It will be 35 times bigger than the combined area of New Zealand’s existing 44 marine reserves, twice the size of New Zealand’s landmass and will cover 15% of its exclusive economic zone.
This area is considered critical for biodiversity with 150 kinds of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three of the world’s seven endangered sea turtles, more than six million seabirds from 39 different species and many creatures unique to the area such as corals, shellfish and crabs.
Additionally, the area is geologically significant, housing the world’s longest chain of underwater volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench at over 6 miles.
One of the most important protections for the ocean sanctuary will be a ban on commercial and recreational fishing, along with oil, gas and mineral prospecting, exploration and mining. New Zealand plans to monitor the protected are via navy and satellite technology. The government hopes to establish the sanctuary next year. New Zealand prime minister John Key said:
“The Kermadecs is a world-class, unspoiled marine environment and New Zealand is proud to protect it for future generations. New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably. Creating protected areas will support not only our own fisheries, but those of our Pacific neighbors, adding to New Zealand’s efforts to help grow Pacific economies through the responsible management of their ocean resources.”
The new Kermadec sanctuary will join three other key areas in the Pacific ocean, protected by the U.S., U.K. and Australia.