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Government announced the creation of an ocean sanctuary the size of France, to preserve marine life in the South Pacific. It is expected to be in place by October 2016.
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has announced the creation of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. A vast area of pristine habitat covering 620,000 square km within New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone will be fully protected.
Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary locates northeast of New Zealand, at 239,383 square miles, will be twice the size of New Zealand's landmass and 35 times larger than all of the country's existing marine reserves combined, becoming the latest island nation in the Pacific to put ecological protection and tourism ahead of fishing and mining industries.
One of the most geologically diverse ocean habitats, the Kermadec region contains the world’s second deepest ocean trench, an underwater mountain range, and a series of volcanoes, which form the longest underwater volcanic arc on earth.
Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of the sanctuary, saying it will preserve important habitats for sea birds, whales, dolphins, endangered sea turtles and thousands of other species.
"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 world", Key explained.
The importance of the move was also underlined by Environment Minister Nick Smith, who reiterated that the oceans are coming to the forefront of the battle for the environment, as “they make up 72 percent of the globe and are home to half of the world’s species.” And yet, “only two percent is protected,” Smith added.
“IT WILL SAFEGUARD HABITATS AND SPECIES CRITICAL FOR HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS”
The Kermadecs serve as an important migratory pathway for marine mammals making seasonal journeys between tropical and cooler waters, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The area is home to more than 50 underwater volcanoes -- part of the longest underwater volcanic arc on the planet -- and the world's second-deepest ocean trench, with a depth of 6.2 miles.
“We are just beginning to understand the abundance of life there, but we know that creating this marine sanctuary will safeguard rare habitats and species critical for healthy ecosystems throughout the South Pacific,” Bronwen Golder, who manages Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy campaign, said in a release.
Matt Rand, Global Ocean Legacy’s director, added that New Zealand was preserving "one of the few relatively unspoiled areas of ocean on Earth," and that the impacts would be felt far beyond the region.
The new sanctuary expands the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve-- established in 1990 extending 12 nautical miles from each of the area's six islands -- to include a major portion of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone. Fishing and mining will no longer be permitted in the area.
“THEY HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT INDUSTRY CONSULTATION”
“With no forewarning from government the industry needs time to consider the full implications,” Seafood New Zealand Chairman George Clement said.
The ban goes further than existing quotas on species such as tuna designed to keep fish stocks at sustainable levels.
Charles Hufflett, who pioneered New Zealand's tuna industry in the early 1980s, slammed the sanctuary as short-sighted and said the government made the decision without industry consultation.
"How come that New Zealanders wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning to find that this has been announced?" Hufflett told the media. "It's incredible."
The sanctuary still requires legislation, but it is expected to be in place by Oct. 1, 2016.
According to Pew, Kermadec will be the third-largest fully protected marine area in the world, after the United Kingdom’s Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Chagos Marine Reserve in the Indian Ocean.