NZ Urged to Follow Obama's Lead
Pacific Atolls Marine Reserve Welcomed as NZ Urged to Follow Obama's Lead
Wellington, 24 September (TBC) – The New Zealand government is being urged to follow in the footsteps of US President Barak Obama, who today announced a massive boost to Pacific marine protection with the expansion of the Pacific Atolls marine reserve.
The announcement will see the existing Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument, one of the most pristine tropical marine environments in the world, increased to six times its current size (over 1.2 million square kilometres). The area lies between Hawaii and Samoa and is deemed significant for conservation because it will fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.
The area includes over 130 newly protected sea mounts, which are hotspots of biodiversity that support uncounted numbers of new and unique marine species. The expanded reserve will also better protect the habitat of animals with large migration and foraging ranges that stretch throughout the area, including sea turtles, marine mammals, and manta rays.
“We congratulate President Obama for the leadership he has shown in the Pacific Ocean, and it is clear the US has set a new benchmark for global marine conservation”, said Peter Hardstaff, WWF-New Zealand’s head of campaigns.
“This announcement is a timely reminder that New Zealand also has areas of global significance, such as the waters surrounding the Kermadec Islands and trench, that are so diverse and special they deserve immediate protection.
“WWF calls on Prime Minister John Key to follow Obama’s lead and commit to establishing a 620,000 square kilometre Kermadecs Ocean Sanctuary, to protect one of the last near-pristine ocean environments in the world.”
The Kermadec Islands, Arc and Trench are home to species found nowhere else on the planet, and new species are still being discovered. The region teems with marine life including whales, dolphins, seals, seabirds, turtles and unique creatures that live on the thermal vents that rise from the second deepest trench in the world. WWF-New Zealand is working with the Pew Environment Trust and Forest and Bird to promote an Ocean Sanctuary for the Kermadec area.
“Over 10% of the US EEZ will now be fully protected, while less than half of one percent of New Zealand’s marine environment is fully protected. The existing Kermadecs Marine Reserve, which at approx. 7,500 square kilometres is our largest, is dwarfed by the marine protected areas established by other countries including Chile, the UK and the US”, said Peter Hardstaff.
“At the current rate of implementation it will take more than 800 years for New Zealand to achieve the international target of 10 per cent marine protection. We can and must do better, and what better place to start than with the Kermadecs Ocean Sanctuary.”