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WWF welcomes Labour's plans to protect pristine Kermadecs

Media release - For immediate release - 1 November 2011

WWF welcomes Labour's plans to protect pristine Kermadecs

WWF has welcomed today's announcement by the Labour Party of a new policy to fully protect the Kermadec marine region. The global conservation organisation says the plans, if enacted into legislation, would make a "major statement to the rest of the world about New Zealand's commitment to marine conservation".

New Zealand's sub-tropical Kermadec marine region and deep underwater trench, located 1000 kilometres north of Auckland, are globally recognised as biodiversity and geodiversity hotspots. Yet less than 1 per cent of the marine region is currently protected by the existing Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve.

Labour spokesperson for conservation, Ruth Dyson, announced the policy to extend protection for the Kermadec marine region out to 200 nautical miles, saying the 620,000 square kilometre marine reserve would be a 'world class sanctuary'.

Welcoming the plans, WWF-New Zealand's Executive Director Chris Howe said: "The Kermadec marine region teems with an incredible array of plant and animal life - much of which is found nowhere else on the planet. It is of such national and international significance that it warrants immediate protection.

"We therefore welcome Labour's pledge which makes a major statement to the rest of the world about New Zealand's commitment to marine conservation - and we urge all political parties to commit to full legal protection to the Kermadec marine region early in the next government."

The Kermadec Islands, Arc and Trench have been identified on a short list of globally important marine areas. They have World Heritage values and contain incredible marine wildlife such as whales, sharks, turtles, and large ocean fish such as tuna, sunfish and marlin. The Kermadec trench is the second deepest trench in the world, with geothermal vents that are home to many unique species.

A recent expedition to the Kermadec Islands led by the Auckland Museum discovered 12 new species of fish that had never been recorded anywhere in New Zealand before.

The proposed sanctuary would be off-limits to all extractive activities, including fishing and mining, in the 620,000km² area. Recent research makes it clear that human threats to the deep sea are increasing faster than our understanding of these systems.

Chris Howe said: "Increasing this protection would allow New Zealand to regain its position as a world leader in marine conservation. The proposed sanctuary would provide a large haven in the Pacific which would allow some of the ocean's most exploited and threatened species to not only recover but flourish."

He said that New Zealanders valued the natural environment, and urged all political parties to catch up with public opinion: "Earlier this year, opinion polling found more than nine in ten New Zealanders believe more of their oceans should be fully protected in marine reserves . Yesterday, a TV3 poll found voters place the cleanliness and quality of our natural environment as the number one election issue. We believe all political parties need to respond to and act on New Zealanders' wishes to protect our natural heritage - and the Kermadecs is a good place to start."

ENDS


About WWF-New Zealand

WWF-New Zealand is part of the WWF International Network, the world's largest and most experienced independent conservation organisation. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. This is achieved by working on the ground with local communities, and in partnership with government and industry, using the best possible science to advocate change and effective conservation policy.

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