New Zealand has announced plans to turn a vast area of the South Pacific, about 600 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, into a marine sanctuary. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is almost the size of Texas and includes the Kermadec Islands archipelago as well as a chain of underwater volcanoes. The government plans to pass legislation next year to create the sanctuary in what New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key called “one of the most geographically and geologically diverse areas in the world.”

ocean sanctuary, ocean preserve, dolphins, whale, marine mammals, fisheries, mining, New Zealand, John Key, Kermadec Islands, endangered species, endangered turtles, ocean trench

The 239,400 square mile reserve contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arch and the Kermadec trench, which at 6 miles deep is one of the world’s deepest ocean trenches. “The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life,” Key said in a statement. All fishing and mining will be banned in the preserve.

Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Our ocean plastic problem is quickly spiraling out of control

The move follows New Zealand’s recent commitment of $50 million over three years to support sustainable fishing in the Pacific. “Creating protected areas will support not only our own fisheries, but those of our Pacific neighbours, adding to New Zealand’s efforts to help grow Pacific economies through the responsible management of their ocean resources,” Key said.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will become an important part of a network of Pacific Ocean sanctuaries, including US Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the Australian Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve and the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve recently announced by the British Government. Together, the four areas will protect about 1.3 million square miles of Pacific Ocean habitat.

Via BBC News

Lead image and dolphin image via NOAA, sea lion image via Tomas Sobek.