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New marine reserve for the Auckland Islands

New marine reserve for the Auckland Islands

About 484,000 hectares of the Southern Ocean surrounding the Auckland Islands has become New Zealand's newest marine reserve, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

"The Auckland Islands are of international ecological importance and should have the highest possible level of protection we can give them. Until now the islands themselves have had that protection but all of the sealife surrounding them has not.

"I am delighted to be able to announce that approval to create a marine reserve in the area has been given by Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson, Transport Minister Paul Swain and myself," Mr Carter said.

"The reserve will stretch for 12 nautical miles around the islands, making it the second biggest marine reserve in New Zealand. It will not only protect relatively shallow inshore areas up to 100m deep but also some deep ocean environments down to 3000m deep.

"The seas around the Auckland Islands are home to some remarkable sea life. They are the primary calving and breeding ground for the southern right whale and the Hookers sealion. They are important to the southern blue whiting, scampi, arrow squid, and of course the massive Auckland Island spider crab, which has a leg span of one metre."

Mr Carter said the reserve also protected a vital ecosystem for a broad range of sea birds. About 30 per cent of the world's population of hoiho or yellow eyed penguin bred in the area.

Mr Carter said that Ngai Tahu have recommended that the Maori name of the reserve be Motu Maha.

"I am optimistic that confirmation of this reserve breaks a logjam in marine reserve applications that has so frustrated marine scientists, conservationists and local communities throughout the country," Mr Carter said.

"This is the first marine reserve announced in four years. By the end of this year, I am hopeful we will have decisions on at least another five reserve applications, including proposals at Waiheke Island, Stewart island, the Wellington South coast, north Nelson and the Volkner Rocks in the Bay of Plenty."

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