New Zealand has confirmed its intention to create one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the world, covering a vast swath of ocean located north-east of the island nation. The announcement has caught those in the fishing and mining industries by surprise, but Prime Minister John Key foresees the potential for greater revenues from tourism.

Encompassing the Kermadec Islands, the proposed nature preserve is home to a large variety of marine life, as well as being a region of great geographical diversity. As global fish stocks continue to decline, foreign fishing vessels have begun to encroach on the region, which contains hundreds of species of seabirds, dolphins, whales and sea turtles.

The owner of New Zealand-based Solander Seafood & Fishing, Charles Hufflett, stated he would be opposing the decision, “We have only really just developed a domestic tuna industry of any size and they are taking away this valuable area.”

According to Prime Minister Key, “The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas.” Covering nearly twice the area of New Zealand itself, enforcing the new policy will be a challenge, but drone technology, as well as a new system developed by Google, could make the job more manageable.

Google’s Global Fishing Watch uses satellite tracking devices already present on all large vessels and then picks out those that are fishing vessels based on recognized patterns. The new technology would not be able to track vessels that choose to turn off their transponders, however.

The recent announcement aligns New Zealand with other Pacific Island nations such as Palau, which decided to transform its entire 200 mile exclusive economic zone into a sanctuary for marine life. Prime Minister Key’s claims of increased tourist revenue would build upon recent gains in that industry, which this year saw over 3 million visitors, the largest in the nation’s history.

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