Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of the sanctuary, saying it will preserve important habitats for seabirds, whales, dolphins, endangered sea turtles and thousands of other species.
“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 word,” Key said.
The Kermadecs, located about 620 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, serve as an important migratory pathway for marine mammals making seasonal journeys between tropical and cooler waters, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. The area is home to more than 50 underwater volcanoes — part of the longest underwater volcanic arc on the planet — and the world’s second-deepest ocean trench, with a depth of 6.2 miles.
“We are just beginning to understand the abundance of life there, but we know that creating this marine sanctuary will safeguard rare habitats and species critical for healthy ecosystems throughout the South Pacific,” Bronwen Golder, who manages Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy campaign, said in a release.
Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary northeast of New Zealand, at 239,383 square miles, will be twice the size of New Zealand’s landmass and 35 times larger than all of the country’s existing marine reserves combined.