Kermadec Islands marine reserve

By Dr J Floor Anthoni, (2002)
The Kermadec Islands, located about 1000 km north-east of New Zealand, are some of the most interesting places on this planet, mainly because of their isolation and because the world has very few island groups in the subtropical south. It is a place where the large seaweeds are absent and the corals just dare to grow. Dominated by volcanoes, located on the edge of the deep Kermadec Trench, a marine community has evolved, surviving the special conditions of this area. Raoul is its largest island with an active volcano.
Introduction to this large section on the Kermadec Islands. (3 pages, on this page)
Location, topography, geography and geology of the island groups. (4 pages.)
Some terrestrial, but mostly marine ecology. (11 pages)
Short history and time line. (6 pages)
Dive information and popular dive sites. (7 pages)
a visit
A visit to the island. Some images of Raoul. (5 pages)
photo galleries
Over 120 beautiful photographs of the environment, the famous big groupers, firefishes, fishes, corals, crustaceans, echinoderms and more. Annotated with interesting facts. (43 pages)
related sections
Related information on this web site:
Oceanography/tides: how the tide works.
Oceanography/circulation: how winds and currents arise.
further reading
Books and references (on this page)
Internet links (on this page)
what's new?
A log of recent changes to this section (on this page)

Note! for best printed results, set your page up with a left margin of 1.5cm (0.6") and right margin of 1.0cm (0.4")
The whole section covers about 4.0MB, over 220 files, 80 printed pages, including text, drawings and photographs.
For corrections, suggestions and improvements, e-mail me.
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The Kermadec Islands are New Zealand's northernmost territories, extending its Exclusive Economic Zone by a substantial amount, although the islands themselves are only very small outcrops. In 1990 the sea around these islands was declared a no-take marine reserve, extending 12 nautical miles (22km) out in the ocean. With its 7480km2 area, it will for a long time remain New Zealand's largest marine reserve.

The reason this particular marine reserve has attracted so much attention on this web site, is that very little is known about it and even less published and less still, publicly accessible. As far as can be ascertained, this marine reserve is successful in protecting the marine environment, which appears to have no other threats but exploitation. By the sheer awkwardness of its location, the marine environment has been spared the ravages of fishing by commercial and amateur fishermen alike (it is not economic). Very few people will be lucky enough to visit these islands, yet many should know about them. This section has been written for divers and students, and anyone interested to learn more about this jewel in the crown of New Zealand marine reserves. When left alone, and once the islands have been rid of cats and rats, the chance is high that bird life will return, and ultimately the state of the environment to what it once was, one of the last pristine and undisturbed places on Earth.

The chapter on geography shows where the islands are located, also in relation to large geographical features such as the Kermadec Ridge and the Kermadec Trench. Geography and geology are indistinguishable when it comes to explain the origins of these islands and their present state.

The chapter on ecology touches on the terrestrial ecology, but pays most attention to the marine ecology. The seascapes with their corals have no resemblance to the ones surrounding the mainlands of New Zealand, and this begs explanation. We observed signs of stress, even though human influence is negligible. Apparrently, living in a very small spot, surrounded by a very large infertile ocean ('desert'), is difficult for sea creatures. The possible reasons are investigated. Finally, the amount of sea and bird life cannot readily be explained from the infertility of the surrounding ocean, so other factors must be at work to disperse the nutrients of life. The conclusion is that the natural environment of these islands is fragile and that the only logical consequence is to protect it completely from human intervention. This is indeed the Government's plan.

The chapter on the history of the islands is fascinating, and details how difficult it is for people to inhabit a small spot surrounded by a large, infertile ocean. In this respect, humans make no exception to the rules of nature.By means of a timeline, hundreds of years of history compress to an interesting summary.

The chapter on diving marks suitable dive spots, as a useful record for visiting divers. It is hoped that they too, will share their experiences by contributing to this chapter.

A description of this area would not be complete without a visit to Raoul Island, presented in several selected images.

The photo galleries make up the bulk of this section, illustrating in vivid colours what the underwater environment looks like. It takes the reader on a tour of habitats, giant groupers, frilly lionfish, other fishes, corals, crustaceans, and so on.

For suggestions, corrections and comments, please e-mail me.
Floor Anthoni

Further reading
References in blue are available from the Seafriends Library
  • Brook, F J (1998): The coastal molluscan fauna of the northern Kermadec islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. J Royal Soc NZ, Vol 28, 2, June 1998, pp 185-233
  • Brook, F J (1999): The coastal scleractinian coral fauna of the Kermadec Islands, southwestern Pacific Ocean. J Royal Soc NZ, Vol 29, 4, pp 435-460.
  • Francis, Malcolm P & Roger V Grace, Chris D Paulin (1987): Coastal fishes of the Kermadec Islands. NZ J Marine & Freshwater Res, 1987, Vol 21:1-13.
  • Francis, Malcolm P (1993): Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science (1993) Vol 47, no2: 136-170
  • Francis, Malcolm P (2001): Coastal fishes of New Zealand - an identification guide. 3rd ed. 2001. Reed Publ (NZ).
  • Gentry, Steven(2014): Raoul& the Kermadecs, New Zealand's northernmost islands. Steele Roberts, Wellington, NZ.
  • Hardy, Graham S, Roger V Grace, Malcolm P Francis (1980): Fishes observed at the Three Kings Islands, northern New Zealand. Rec Auckland Inst Mus. 24: 243-250.
  • Lloyd, E F et al. (1996): Volcanic history of Macauley Island, Kermadec Ridge, New Zealand. NZ J Geol & Geoph, 1996, Vol 39, pp 295-308.
  • Morton, Elsie K (1957/58) Crusoes of Sunday Island. A H & A W Reed, Auckland.
  • New Zealand Pilot: Chapter 11, Isolated dangers and outlying islands. Navigational information and warnings.
  • Paulin C D (1984): Fishes of the Kermadec Islands. NZ Inst trans 42: 118-175
  • Ridgway, N M and R. A. Heath: Hydrology of the Kermadec Islands Region. NZ Oceanographic Institute, 1975.
  • Schiel DR, M J Kingsford, J H Choat (1986): Depth distribution and abundance of benthic organisms and fishes at the subtropical Kermadec Islands. NZ J Marine & Freshwater Res, 1986 Vol 20: 521-535 
  • Sykes W R, C J West, J E Beever, & A J Fife: Kermadec Islands Flora - Special Edition. A compilation of modern material, intended to provide a single reference of the Kermadec flora to meet the need for up-to-date information and plant data. Manaaki Whenua Press. (Bill Sykes, 1977) (c) Landcare Research.
  • Venables, A M (1937): The Kermadec Group; the unvarnished truth about Sunday Island, a land of dreams. By the 1936-37 expedition. Walsh Printing Company, Auckland. - An optimistic account of the islands, but with much factual information.

Internet links:
  • Burrow, Edna:  The Bells of Sunday Island an historical account. .(broken link?)
  • Flude, Anthony G: COUNT VON LUCKNER'S ESCAPE - The sailing Scow 'MOA' becomes a German Naval Vessel.  2001. 
  • Latter John H, Edwards F. Lloyd , Ian E.M. Smith , and Simon Nathan: New Zealands volcanoes: Kermadec Islands. VOLCANIC HAZARDS IN THE KERMADEC ISLANDS, AND AT SUBMARINE VOLCANOES BETWEEN SOUTHERN TONGA AND NEW ZEALAND. Inst of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS). [broken link]
  • Macnaughtan, Don: Prehistoric settlement of Norfolk Island and the Kermadec Archipelago. 2001. An extensive bibliography relating to archaeology and settlement. 
  • National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund: Kermadec Islands subtropical moist forests (OC0107). A description of the vegetation and fauna on the Kermadec Islands, with bibliography.
  • National Library of New Zealand gives access to manuscripts, archives, drawings, prints, photographs and other historical documents, including referenced to items relating to the Kermadec Islands.
  • Skipworth, Ian: The Kermadecs, New Zealand's sub-tropical island jewels. An account of a dive trip to the Kermadec Islands, complete with photographs.
  • Spinetto, Pete: The Raoul Experience. An account of one year of life on Raoul Island, 1957. Witty report of a communications expert.


What's new?
yyyymmdd - Description
20060324 - Suggestions made by L Chappell, Bay of Plenty, implemented.
20020904 - Suggestions by Malcolm P Francis implemented.
20020719 - Corrections and suggestions by Mrs M Borich, put in place.
20020705 - Completed all sections. Awaiting corrections to all chapters.
20020630 - Completed the photographic galleries - over 150 images in eight galleries, annotated with interesting information.

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