The Kermadecs: An Ocean Wilderness

"The combination of sea life that defines the Kermadec region is rarely found in the world's oceans, making it a precious place deserving of our extraordinary protection.”

-Bronwen Golder, director of the Global Ocean Legacy Kermadec Initiative

One of the world's last great wilderness areas is the ocean surrounding the Kermadec Islands, located in the South Pacific Ocean between New Zealand's northernmost island and Tonga.

This spectacular yet little-explored area contains the second-deepest ocean trench on the planet, underwater volcanoes and a wide variety of marine life.

The four above-water islands of the Kermadec region form part of the longest underwater volcanic arc on Earth. Deeper waters conceal mountain peaks just below the ocean surface and unusual geological and biological features, such as hydrothermal vents. East of the islands, the Kermadec Trench plunges to a depth that is five times deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States.

Straddling both tropical and temperate climates, the Kermadec region hosts a rare combination of species. 431 species of fish—32 percent of total fish species found in New Zealand—are known to frequent these waters. The islands provide habitat not only to hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles—all considered endangered or critically endangered—but also breeding areas for more than 3 million seabirds a year.

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“The Kermadec region is a place of remarkable diversity—from the dark, cold depths of the Kermadec-Tonga trench to the superheated vents of the Kermadec arc. The combination of sea life that defines the Kermadec region is rarely found in the world's oceans, making it a precious place deserving of our extraordinary protection,” says Bronwen Golder, director of the Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy Kermadec Initiative.

The Global Ocean Legacy program is working to establish an ocean sanctuary to protect all the marine species that live throughout the geologically important Kermadec region.