President Barack Obama created a new marine monument, which is now the first American monument in the Atlantic Ocean. This monument will now protect the diverse and widely productive canyons and underwater seamounts off of the southern coast of New England. This initiative falls under the Antiquities Act, which has allowed the President to set aside protected areas such as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established late last month (see post).
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut, and sits roughly 120 miles offshore of Massachusetts’ south shore.
“If we’re going to leave our children with oceans like the ones that were left to us, then we’re going to have to act, and we’re going to have to act boldly,” Mr. Obama said at the State Department, recalling his childhood spent in Hawaii, bodysurfing in the Pacific Ocean and gazing out at its waters…
“It is this spectacular ocean wilderness that has plummeting canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, undersea mountains taller than anything east of the Rockies, and sublimely beautiful deep-sea corals that blossom out of the depths and are as ancient as the redwoods,” he said, adding that the president had increased by 20 times the amount of protected ocean habitat off the continental United States.
-Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The New York Times
The new monument sits along the Gulf Stream current that brings warm water from the Caribbean up the coastline. With climate change and increased sea temperatures, protecting ecologically diverse areas, especially those projected to be hit hardest with warming events, is vital. Much opposition came from the fishing industries, as most commercial fishing will be banned in the monument, however, investing in the long-term resiliency of the ocean is the goal of its preservation. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts are home to many endangered species of whales, turtles, and fishes as well as a host of fragile deep-dwelling corals. Protecting at least a fraction of fragile ecosystems is key to preserving the plethora of wildlife (known and yet to be discovered) that inhabits those waters.