Wellington, New Zealand, is an appropriate setting for this week’s 13th International Deep Sea Biology Symposium. Just offshore from the capital city is the second-deepest underwater trench in the world, the Kermadec Trench. Situated east of the Kermadec island chain and extending more than 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) northwest toward Tonga, the area includes some of the most geologically active and biologically unusual features on Earth.
As a sponsor of the symposium, Pew is raising awareness about the important role that the deep sea plays in overall ocean health. Eighty percent of the Earth’s biosphere is deep ocean. Our planet is livable thanks to the deep sea and the organisms within it, especially microbes.
Here’s a snapshot of the very special places in the world’s oceans where Pew is working with governments, local communities, and scientists to protect our deep seas through the establishment of large, fully protected marine reserves. These sites contain many features that are unique to the deep sea.
Pew’s first completed site was the 363,000-square-kilometer (140,155-square-mile) Papahânaumokuâkea Marine National Monument, established in 2006. Located in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands, these waters include some of the world’s healthiest coral reefs and deepwater environments. More than 7,000 marine species, a full quarter of which are endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago, can be found here.
The Papahânaumokuâkea Marine National Monument has 48 seamounts and 36 knolls. Deepwater submersible dives in 2007 found new species.
Pew’s efforts helped to protect the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in our oceans and site of Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron’s historic March 2012 exploration. Designated in 2009, the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument contains undersea mud volcanoes and thermal vents that support unusual life-forms in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
In addition to being the deepest canyon on earth, the Mariana Trench is one of the rare places in the world where shallow-water communities that thrive on sunlight coexist with hydrothermal vent communities.
New Zealand’s remote Kermadec islands include some of the most geologically active and biologically unusual features on Earth. Pew is urging the New Zealand government to protect this area through designation of a large marine reserve that generations of scientists could study. This 620,000-square-kilometer (239,383-square-mile) area includes volcanic islands, cold methane seeps, hydrothermal vents, and the world’s second-deepest ocean trench.
In 2010, the National Geographic Society and the international Census of Marine Life declared the Kermadecs one of the “last pristine sites left in the ocean” and a place worthy of special protection.