Over 620,000 square kilometres of ocean in the Kermadec region will be protected as an ocean sanctuary, Prime Minister John Key announced at the UN General Assembly this week.

"The Kermadec Ocean sanctuary will be one of the world's largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life," said Key.

The area houses some of the most diverse and fragile marine ecosystems in the world.

The sanctuary will encompass more than twice of New Zealand's land area, lying 1000km northeast of the Bay of Plenty in the Pacific Ocean. When in place it will cover 15% of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone and be over 50% larger than the country's biggest national park. Destructive practises like mining, commercial fishing and prospecting will be banned in the region to protect the fragile and diverse ecosystems in place there.

Advertisement

"We congratulate the government for taking decisive action to protect this incredibly special area from mining and fishing," said WWF-New Zealand's Chief Executive Chris Howe. "This decision puts New Zealand back at the forefront of marine protection on the global stage."

Howe is one of countless conservationists lauding the decision.

The Kermadec region serves as a breeding and feeding ground for a diverse range of marine mammals, fish and invertebrates. Among them are dolphins, whales, sharks, tuna, sunfish, turtles, coral and other threatened or endangered marine species that suffer from the effects of destructive economic marine activities like fishing and drilling.

Geologically, the region is the host of the world's longest chain of submerged volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench.

The WWF has campaigned for the sanctuary for more than eight years with the Pew Charitable Trust and Forest & Bird.

"This ocean sanctuary is a major conservation victory and is testament to many years of hard work by thousands of New Zealanders," says Howe.

"Together we've helped establish a large haven in the Pacific that will allow some of the ocean's most exploited and threatened species to not only recover but flourish."