New Zealand creating huge protected marine reserve in Pacific

29 Sep 2015

New Zealand has announced plans to convert an area in the South Pacific into a protected, dedicated marine reserve.

Speaking at an assembly of the United Nations in New York, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the sanctuary will be in the Kermadec region in the South Pacific, encompassing 620,000km2.

Establishing the sanctuary, which should be passed through New Zealand government next year, will create a fully-protected zone preventing all fishing and mining in the area, adding to the protections already in place.

The Kermadec region is a particularly interesting part of the planet, with a 10km deep trench running through it, which is one of the deepest in the world. It’s got plenty of biodiversity, with whales, dolphins, birds and turtles around the Kermadec Islands.

Massive decision, but may be challenged

The zone reaches to the northernmost limit of New Zealand’s ocean authority and is twice the size of its landmass, around nine times the size of Ireland. It is part of a growing number of reserves in an ocean sadly becoming better known for pollution than marine life.

The announcement seems to have caught industry completely off guard, with Seafood New Zealand expressing shock after the news broke.

“With no forewarning from government, the industry needs time to consider the full implications,” said George Clement, chairman of the body.

Marine Life dolphin seabirds

A combined effort

The US Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the Australian Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve recently announced by the UK, along with the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, will consist of a total of 3,503,023km2.

Last year, a combined push by both New Zealand and Australia to create an Antarctic marine reserve, almost exactly the same size as this Kermadec region, was apparently thwarted by Chinese and Russian pressures.

This may not be the last announcement of this kind over the coming months, either, with the majority of international bodies looking at climate change and environmental protections throughout 2015.

“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,” said Key.

Main and body image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic