In a surprise move, the New Zealand government have announced the planned creation of the “Kermadec ocean sanctuary”, in the South Pacific. It will be 620,000 sq km in size and join onto an existing marine reserve around the Kermadec islands. This would make it one of the largest reserves ever created, as it will be over twice the size of the landmass of New Zealand. The legislation to create the reserve is expected to be passed next year.
The plan is for strict marine reserve with no fishing or mining of any kind allowed to take place. The area is home to hundreds of species of fish and mammals along with the world’s longest chain of submerged volcanoes. It also has the “Kermadec Trench” which is the second deepest ocean trench in the world and is relatively unexplored. It is thought to be the only place where giant amphipods (up to 13 inches long) are found. There are likely to be many more unique species but researchers are finding it difficult to explore, an unmanned submarine mission in 2014 ended with a “catastrophic explosion” at a depth of 9.9km.
Environmental groups, who had been lobbying for the reserve, welcomed the news, but other groups are not so happy. Mining and seafood groups were not forewarned about the creation of the reserve and feel they have not been given sufficient time to shift their operations. Many fear what will happen to the tuna industry, currently New Zealand’s fourth largest export. Environment minister Nick Smith responded by saying,
“New Zealand needs to use its vast ocean resources for jobs and exports with industries like fishing, aquaculture, minerals and energy, but we also need to set aside special areas where nature comes first and marine life is fully protected.”
The reserve will be monitored by satellites and by the New Zealand navy to prevent any illegal activity.
The reserve creation would mean that there would be 4 reserves in the Pacific Ocean belonging to New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the United States respectively. In total this means that 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean would be protected.