Protecting Ocean Ecosystems

Celebrating the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts

A high diversity coral community living together on a hard rock area. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts.

Happy Anniversary! This Saturday, September 15th, marks two years since President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, providing full and permanent protection for this remarkable ecosystem for generations to come.

Located about 130 miles off the coast of New England, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts contains four seamounts higher than any mountain east of the Rockies and three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is a biodiversity hotspot, teeming with ocean life from endangered whales, seabirds, and sea turtles to thousand-year-old deep-sea coral communities and numerous fish species.

And now, thanks to the protections afforded by President Obama through the Antiquities Act – one of our nation’s most important conservation tools – the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is the only area in the U.S. Atlantic that’s fully protected from commercial extractive activity, such as fishing, mining, and drilling.

But protection for the monument, though meant to be permanent, has not been guaranteed in the Trump Administration. For the last year and a half, the Administration has led an attack on our public lands and waters, trying to reverse protections for our nation’s most special places – including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.

Protected but still under attack

One of the latest attacks came from Acting NOAA Administrator Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet who stated that opening the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts and other marine monuments to commercial fishing would help address the nation’s seafood deficit. This is a blatantly false statement and proof that the Administration will stop at nothing – even lie – to fulfill its anti-environment agenda.

Prior to designation as a monument, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts was one of the least fished areas in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean, and the designation did not change quotas for commercial fishermen in the region. Allowing commercial fishing within any marine national monument will not reduce the seafood deficit.

A needed refuge area

The marine life and habitat in our ocean already face increasing pressures from a rapidly changing ecosystem due to the impacts of human-induced climate change. If anything, fisheries in the region need a refuge area where they can live, breed, and feed without additional human pressure. Free from these threats, marine life can thrive within the monument boundaries. For example, a recent flyover of the area by scientists documented more than 600 individual animals in less than four hours. That is something to celebrate, and celebrate we will.

So, Happy Anniversary, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts! Wishing you many more to come.


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