Congressman Boehlert: New England’s ocean treasures deserve protection
This post is an excerpt from an opinion piece in The Patriot Ledger, in which former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (Republican, former Chair of the House Science Committee) expresses his support of Marine National Monument designation for the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts. You can read the entire piece here.
In 2006, President George W. Bush wisely used his presidential authority under the Antiquities Act to protect a vital ocean ecosystem off the coast of Hawaii. Two years later, again in the Pacific, he protected other critically important marine areas characterized by reefs, atolls and vast underwater canyons.
All together he created four Marine National Monuments covering more than 600,000 square miles. Preserving these ecologically important marine habitats was essential for the residents of Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands, who depend heavily on a healthy and productive ocean. These monuments enjoy overwhelming local support.
Here in the Northeast we rely on a healthy and productive Atlantic Ocean, which is why I was thrilled to learn that the Obama Administration is considering the same protection for New England’s coral canyons and seamounts, a biologically critical area of ocean 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
True to its name, this area is characterized by underwater canyons – some of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon – and mountains extending up to 7000 feet from the ocean floor. It is a unique underwater environment that hosts a rich and diverse array of life, which is crucial to the health and resilience of New England’s ocean fish and marine mammal populations.
The many colorful cold-water corals that inhabit these canyons and seamounts, some of which are the size of small trees, take centuries to grow and were alive back in 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt was signing the Antiquities Act into law.
And with the livelihood of so many, along with the maritime culture and heritage of our coastal communities, hinging on responsible ocean stewardship, this is an area that clearly should be the Atlantic’s first Marine National Monument.