SYDNEY - New Zealand is to create one of the world's largest marine reserves to protect wildlife in the South Pacific.
Roughly the size of France, the Kermedec Sanctuary will cover 620 thousand square kilometers of largely pristine ocean where all mining and fishing will be forbidden. Beneath its waters, which lie in-between New Zealand and Tonga, is one of the world’s biggest strings of volcanoes.
The reserve is home to an array of endangered wildlife, including dolphins, turtles and whales, while new marine species are regularly discovered. It is also an important breeding and feeding ground for seabirds, fish and invertebrates.
Covering 15 percent of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone, the sanctuary is 50 times the size of the South Pacific country’s largest national park.
“It is my great pleasure to take this opportunity to announce the creation of what will be one of the world’ largest and most significant fully-protected nature reserves," said New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, who made the announcement during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The move will likely disappoint sections of the deep-sea mining and fishing industries, which will be locked out of the enormous sanctuary.
A spokesman for New Zealand’s seafood sector said it would consider the implications 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 have welcomed the marine reserve announcement, although they continue to criticize what they describe as Wellington’s poor record on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
The United Nations has made sustainable development a key focus.