In a surprise move, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key announced plans to establish a marine preserve nearly the size of Texas in an area of the South Pacific.
Called the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, the marine preserve would sit north of the New Zealand mainland and include both an archipelago and underwater volcanoes. The sanctuary would ban both fishing and resource extraction within its borders.
“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 in a press release.
The preserve will be officially established after legislation is passed, expected to happen sometime next year.
If established, the preserve would include the 6.2-mile deep Kermadec trench, one of the deepest trenches in the world. The trench is known to have a rich biodiversity, including whales, sea lions, endangered turtles, and sea birds. In addition to helping conserve protect species, Key said the move would also benefit New Zealand economically.
A win all around!
“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 Prime Minister said.
“New Zealand welcomes the focus on the sustainability of the world’s oceans and marine resources – a goal which resonates strongly with our region where so many draw their food and livelihoods from the sea,” he added.
According to a BBC report, environmentalist groups widely approved of the announcement. Pew Environment Group, which had called for the reserve’s creation, noted that the sanctuary would effectively grow New Zealand’s protection from 0.5 percent to 15.5 percent of its marine area.
“It’s an extraordinary achievement for all New Zealanders and for the people of the Pacific Islands,” Pew’s campaign director Bronwen Golder told the BBC. The Reuters news agency reported that the announcement took at least one fishing organization by surprise.
George Clement, chairman of Seafood New Zealand, told Reuters that they had had “no forewarning from government” and his industry “needs time to consider the full implications.”
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