Kermadec sanctuary has world's second deepest trench, 30 underwater volcanoes
The area covered by the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary includes the longest chain of submerged volcanoes in the world, and the second deepest ocean trench.
Unveiled by Prime Minister John Key at the United Nations in New York, the sanctuary will be off limits to fishing, aquaculture and mining.
It surrounds the five Kermadec Islands of Raoul, Macauley, Cheeseman, Curtis and L'Esperance. According to a Government leaflet accompanying the announcement, the sanctuary's clear, deep waters are home to an amazing array of marine life, and provide an important migration path for many marine species.
Nowhere else in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone could such a range of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate species of fish, birds and marine mammals be found.
Among one of the most geologically diverse areas in the world, the sanctuary area is up to 10km deep at the bottom of the Kermadec Trench.
More than 6 million seabirds, from 39 different species, lived in the Kermadec area, while up to 35 species of dolphin and whale, including blue whales, migrated through it, the leaflet said.
More than 250 species of corals and tiny animals called bryozoans had been found in region, as were three of the world's seven sea turtle species. More than 150 species of fish were also found in the area.
Large parts of the sanctuary area were unexplored and it was expected new and rare species would be found in its waters.
The area also includes many underwater hot springs, known as hydrothermal vents. Such vents provide important environmental niches for life in the deep ocean.
Niwa fisheries principal scientist Dr Malcolm Clark said the high diversity of habitat types in the area supported a huge range or organisms. Some of those organisms, such as those associated with the hydrothermal vents, were only known from the Kermadec region.
A Cabinet paper described the area as "one of the most pristine places on Earth".