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New Zealand to create massive marine sanctuary
[WELLINGTON] New Zealand has unveiled plans to create a South Pacific marine sanctuary the size of France, saying it would protect one of the world's most pristine ocean environments.
Prime Minister John Key said the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would cover an area of 620,000 sq km about 1,000 km off New Zealand's northeast coast.
Announcing the plans at the United Nations in New York on Monday, Key said the Kermadec area was home to thousands of important species, including whales, dolphins, seabirds and endangered turtles.
"(It) is one of the most geographically and geologically diverse areas in the world," he said in a statement.
"It contains the world's longest underwater volcanic arc and the second deepest ocean trench at 10 km deep." The sanctuary will prevent fishing and mineral exploitation in an area where scientists regularly discover new marine species.
Conservation groups applauded the move, saying it added to a network of protected areas in the Pacific that now covered more than 3.5 million square kilometres.
"We congratulate the government for taking decisive action to protect this incredibly special area from mining and fishing," World Wildlife Fund New Zealand chief executive Chris Howe said.
"This decision puts New Zealand back at the forefront of marine protection on the global stage."
Scientists also applauded the decision to ban all forms of resource extraction from the marine zone, which is remote and largely unsurveyed or scientifically sampled.