Opinion

Op-Ed: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument should be left in place

Fan corals in Oceanographer Canyon. The fan on the right has most of it’s polyps retracted and provides a view of the coral skeleton. Image courtesy Northeast Canyons 2013 Science Team/NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed authored by Daniel Hildreth and published in the Portland Press Herald. Daniel Hildreth is the board chair of Diversified Communications, publisher of National Fisherman.

“As part of the Trump administration’s review of national monuments, the Department of Commerce is reviewing four marine monuments. All of the designations should be left in place, but I am writing particularly about the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument.

This marine monument includes three underwater canyons on the southern edge of Georges Bank, and four seamounts farther to the southeast. The scale of these formations is tremendous – the canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the vertical rise of the seamounts is greater than any mountain in the eastern United States. Because of their remoteness and difficult topography, they have been relatively free of impacts from commercial fishing, especially bottom trawling.

The marine life within them is quite rich. There are cold-water coral forests, some of them centuries old, growing on the canyon walls and seamount peaks. Seventy-three species of coral have been identified so far, and there are believed to be more. This rich bottom environment combined with nutrient upwelling supports diverse populations of fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

Although the Gulf of Maine is an extremely productive ecosystem overall, it is a shadow of what existed four centuries ago. Most of us are familiar with the depletion of fish stocks in recent decades, but this depletion is in fact a continuation of a long trend…

Most of us recognize the need for protected places, such as wilderness areas, ecological reserves and wildlife refuges, on land. We need them in marine environments as well…”

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