New Zealand is looking to create a marine sanctuary the size of France with the aim of protecting one of the world’s most vital and pristine ocean environments. While Australia often draws the most attention for its extraordinary reefs and other ocean environments, New Zealand is home to its own beautiful underwater landscapes.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key announced the new marine sanctuary at the United Nations this past Monday.The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will cover a vast area of ocean off New Zealand’s north-east coast. The sanctuary will be located about 1,000 KM off of New Zealand’s coast and will cover an area of approximately 620,000 square kilometers.
This will make the sanctuary among the largest in the world. Further, as a result of the size and pristine nature of the sanctuary, the Kermadec ecosystem will be one of the most complete and relatively untouched sanctuaries on Earth.
As a protected sanctuary, fishing and mineral exploitation will be heavily restricted. With the addition of the new sanctuary, the total protected areas of the Pacific will now exceed 3.5 million square kilometers. The region is home to the world’s largest underwater volcanic chain, and is also the world’s second deepest ocean trench. The oceanic environments of the Pacific are among the richest and most diverse in the world.
Mr. Key explained that the vital sanctuary is home to thousands of vital species, including but not limited to dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. While the area has been well-studied, researchers frequently discover new species in the area. In total, the sanctuary is home to 35 different species of dolphin in whale, over 150 species of fish, and 3 of the world’s seven species of turtle. There could, of course, be more species waiting to be discovered.
John Key has been the prime minister of New Zealand since 2008. Key is the head of the New Zealand National Party, a right leaning conservative party. Key is estimated to be worth 50 million New Zealand dollars (about $30 million US), making him the richest member of the country’s parliament.
The National Party is actually a minority party, with no party in New Zealand controlling parliament outright. The party relies on a coalition with other smaller parties.
Environmental agencies are already lauding the new sanctuary. The Pacific Ocean has come under threat due to pollution and overexploitation. A massive trash vortex has formed in the middle of the ocean, and many fish and other marine animals are being harmed by plastics and other pieces of garbage. Meanwhile, fish stocks in the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere are being rapidly depleted.