A massive marine sanctuary is being established off New Zealand’s South Pacific coast to safeguard a variety of sea life — including dolphins, whales, turtles and bird species. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary around 600 miles off the antipodean nation’s northeast coast will contain 240,000 sq. mi. of ocean that is considered one of the world’s most pristine environments but is increasingly under threat from fishing and mineral exploitation, reports AFP.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced the plan at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on Monday. “[The sanctuary] contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and the second deepest ocean trench,” he said in a statement.
Environmentalists welcomed the news. “We congratulate the government for taking decisive action to protect this incredibly special area from mining and fishing,” said WWF New Zealand chief executive Chris Howe, reports AFP. “This decision puts New Zealand back at the forefront of marine protection on the global stage.”