Kermadecs turned into one of world’s largest marine sanctuaries

Stuff reports:

A vast stretch of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone is being turned into an ocean sanctuary in a landmark deal to preserve one of the most pristine and unique environments on earth.

Prime Minister John Key is poised to announce the deal in New York, and said it would encompass 620,000 km2 in the seas north-east of New Zealand in the Kermadec region.

“The Kermadec Ocean sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life,” Key said.

The sanctuary will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone, an area twice the size of our landmass and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland.

“As well as being home to a wide range of marine species, the Kermadec region is one of the most geographically and geologically diverse areas in the word. It contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and he second deepest ocean trench at 10 kilometres deep,” Key said.

This is a huge decision. It’s a marine sanctuary twice the size of New Zealand. Most decisions made by New Zealand don’t have global impact, but this one does.

The sanctuary will create a no-take, fully protected zone preventing all fishing and mining in the area, adding to the protections already in place. …

Environment Minister Nick Smith said oceans were the new frontier for environmental protection.

“They make up 72 per cent of the globe and are home to half of the world’s species but currently only two per cent is protected,” Smith said.

“There is increased pressure from over fishing, mining and pollution with the populations of fish and seabird species estimated to have halved over the past 40 years.”

Just as New Zealand had set aside significant areas of land like the Tongariro and Fiordland National Parks, it also needed to protect special areas of the sea like the pristine ocean around the Kermadec Islands.

According to information supplied by Smith’s office, the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas. It includes the second deepest ocean trench at over 10 kilometres, deeper than Mt Everest is tall, and an arc of 30 underwater volcanoes, the largest anywhere on earth.

It is also some to six million seabirds of 39 different species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of endangered sea turtles and many other marine species like coals, shellfish and crabs unique to the area.

I’ve blogged in the past urging the Government to turn the Kermadecs into a marine reserve, noting:

There are a number of smaller there, but we could make the entire area a unique marine reserve. There would be little economic loss in doing so (unlike in other areas), and considerable environmental gain.

I’m absolutely delighted the Government has done this. It is arguably the most significant environmental and conservation initiative of any Government.

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