New Zealand says it will create one of the world's largest marine reserves to protect wildlife in the South Pacific. The Kermedec Sanctuary will cover 620 thousand square kilometers of largely clean ocean.
That is the size of France.
Its waters lie between New Zealand and Tonga. It is home to one of the world's longest string of volcanoes and the second-deepest ocean trench. The reserve is home to a group of endangered wildlife, including dolphins, turtles and whales.
New marine species are regularly discovered. It is also an important breeding and feeding ground for seabirds, fish and invertebrates.
The sanctuary will cover 15 percent of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone and is 50 times the size of the South Pacific country's largest national park. The protected area will ban all mining and fishing.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key made the announcement at the United Nations in New York Monday.
"It is my great pleasure to take this opportunity to announce the creation of what will be one of the world's largest and most significant fully-protected nature reserves. The New Zealand government will establish a 620,000 square kilometer ocean sanctuary in the Kermedec region. It is truly a special place and we want to keep it that way."
The move will likely disappoint sections of the deep-sea mining and fishing industries, which will be locked out of the huge sanctuary.
A spokesman for New Zealand's seafood sector said it would consider the effect of the decision. A Canadian resources firm has applied for a permit to prospect in the area.
The New Zealand government has said the oceans had become the new frontier for environmental protection.
Conservation groups welcome the marine reserve announcement, although they continue to criticize what they describe as Wellington's poor record on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
New Zealand says it hopes to have legislation enacted in parliament to make certain the sanctuary is in place by October 2016.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Phil Mercer reported this story. Marsha James adapted it into Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
sanctuary – n. a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
reserves – n. an area of land where animals and plants are given special protection
trench -- n. a long, narrow hole in the ocean floor