Magnificent marine environment protected for all time

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prime Minister John Key, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, has announced the creation of a 620,000 km2 Ocean Sanctuary in the Kermadec region, one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth.

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.

It 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 world. It contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and the second deepest ocean trench at 10 kilometres deep.

At the centre of the Sanctuary are the Kermadec Islands managed by DOC on behalf of New Zealand.

Let me paint a picture for you…I like to think of this region as a blue water highway for migratory species both above and below the surface.  Between late August and early November a significant proportion of the humpback whale population in the SW Pacific, including cows with calves, migrates south through the archipelago.

Kingfish, turtles and sharks move to and from the warmer waters and marlin move with the seasons chasing tuna, mackerel and eels.

Above the waves, the birds migrate. Some like the black winged petrel call the Kermadecs home but migrate as far away as Mexico and Japan.

Godwits pass through from New Zealand, many from Christchurch, on their way to breed in Alaska and Siberia.

The volcanic chain along the Kermadec Trench stretches for 2,600 km between Tonga and New Zealand. The Kermadec islands are the tops of some of those volcanoes and their activity defines the diversity of underwater terrain and the creatures that live there.

Volcanic percolators bubble away in the depths of the ocean floor supporting giant vent mussels but away from the vents, the sea floor is dominated by bare rock and fine sediments.

It’s a magnificent, world-renown, unspoiled marine environment and we as New Zealanders should be very proud that we are creating The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary for future generations.

You can read more here in  the beautiful Kermadec booklet