The seas around New Zealand are home to half the world’s whales and dolphins and three-quarters of its albatross, penguin and petrel species, says a study.
The waters also include 850 species of seaweed, more than 1000 species of fish and 2000 types of mollusc, many found nowhere else.
The WWF environment group says it has for the first time compiled a study of key areas for biodiversity – what it calls “hotspots” – in the seas round New Zealand.
The independent assessment documents the work of 22 marine scientists who identified, described and mapped key biodiversity areas and features for marine plants and animals.
“These areas are critical for the protection of New Zealand’s irreplaceable marine species,” said WWF conservation director Chris Howe.
The group said protection for marine life should be increased.
Less than 1 per cent of New Zealand’s marine environment was protected for biodiversity, said Mr Howe.
“Time is running out.”