The Kermadecs region, located between New Zealand’s North Island and Tonga, is a remote area that it is rarely visited. However, it includes some of the most geographically active and biologically unusual features on Earth.
Extending to a depth of more than 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) in places, the Kermadec-Tonga Trench is the deepest in the Southern Hemisphere and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon.
The waters of this region are a cradle of life at the junction of the temperate and tropical zone – a place isolated by deep water and teeming with birds, whales, dolphins, fish, turtles and other unique sea creatures, many of which exist only there.
The Kermadec area provides important habitat for deep-diving mammals such as sperm whales and serve as a migratory corridor for humpback whales. Half of the known beaked whales—at least 10 species—are thought to inhabit the area, perhaps the world’s richest habitat for these rare and elusive animals.
The Kermadec region is significant to New Zealand and the world, providing an important safe haven for threatened species and an underwater frontier that scientists are only now beginning to explore.
In September 2015, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced the government’s commitment to create a 620,000-square-kilometer ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, constituting one of the largest fully protected areas of ocean in the world. Pew and its partners have advocated for establishment of this sanctuary to safeguard critical species and support healthy ecosystems in the region for generations to come. This effort was supported by maori (the iwi/tribe of Ngati Kuri), along with New Zealand scientists, artists, government officials, business leaders and conservationists including WWF and Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.
The Kermadecs Are Home to:
- 431 fish species (32 percent of the total fish species found in New Zealand)
- 11 percent of the total number of seabird species in the world
- More than 3 million breeding pairs of seabirds
- Part of the world's longest chain of active undersea volcanoes
- The second deepest trench on the planet
- Crabs and shrimp that live near superheated water at hydrothermal vents