New Zealand’s landmass covers an area of 103,363 square miles. But yesterday it announced that it was designating an area of ocean over two times that size as a protected ocean sanctuary.
The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will prohibit all fishing or mining within the sanctuary borders. The move is designed to protect not only ocean life (flip through our gallery above for a closer look) but also to protect the unique geology of the area.
The new sanctuary, which will go into effect next year, includes the second-deepest marine trench in the world (deeper than Mt. Everest is tall) and 50 underwater volcanos. It’s also an important home to a wide variety of sea life, from fish, to birds, to whales and sea turtles.
The fishing industry isn’t happy with the sudden restriction, but marine reserves are becoming more common, as scientists discover just how much human activity is impacting the oceans. Nearly half the population of the oceans disappeared in the past 45 years. Fortunately, governments like New Zealand’s and the United States’ are expanding existing marine reserves to preserve these areas for future generations.