New Zealand Just Unveiled Plans to Create a Gigantic Marine Reserve

The section of the South Pacific is about the size of France.

The yellow-fronted wrasse, one of the 431 species of fish that live in the Kermadec region. Via wikimedia commons user Sushi Girl1995

New Zealand today announced plans to turn a richly biodiverse section of the South Pacific into a gigantic marine reserve, one of the top ten largest in the world. Fishing and mining activities will be banned in the 239,000 square mile (620,000 square kilometer) section of ocean. (That’s roughly the size of France.)

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will include the Kermadec Trench, the second deepest sea trench in the world. In places, it reaches 6.2 miles below the ocean surface.

According to Pew Charitable Trusts, which has lobbied the New Zealand government to create the marine reserve for some time, the trench area includes: 431 species of fish; half the known species of beaked whales (10); an important migratory corridor for humpback whales; 11 percent of the world’s total number of seabird species; and the Earth’s longest chain of active underwater volcanoes.

The marine reserve will account for 15 percent of New Zealand’s territory, an area twice the size of the country’s land mass.

New Zealand’s fishing industry told Reuters it received “no forewarning from government.” “The industry needs time to consider the full implications," George Clement, chairman of Seafood New Zealand, said.

Deep sea urchins grow on an underwater volcano in the Kermadec area, via NOAA

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