The ocean surrounding New Zealand’s Kermadec Islands is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Home to thousands upon thousands of different creatures, it is an important habitat for endangered turtles, whales, dolphins, seabirds, and a vast array of other life.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has decided to protect it by increasing the size of an existing marine reserve by nearly 100 times. Originally about 3,000 square miles, the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary was created in 1990, and contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arch, as well as the second deepest ocean trench on the planet. With the increase in size, the newly protected area will be twice the size of New Zealand’s landmass.
The government has been facing increasing pressure to establish a larger protected area from some very big players in both the political and environmental scene, including director James Cameron and American Secretary of State John Kerry. If all goes ahead as planned, the sanctuary will be entirely protected from fishing and mining.
When the reserve was first established, all fishing and extraction of any minerals were prohibited in area that extended 12 nautical miles from each of the region’s six islands. The expansion makes the area one of the largest protected areas of the ocean in the entire world.