President Obama designed the first marine preserve in the Atlantic Ocean today, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, the 5000 square mile pristine area protects 1000-year-old deep sea corals – nurseries and shelter for countless marine species -endangered whales and sea turtles and deep sea fish like tuna and sharks. Undersea mountains and canyons deeper than Grand Canyon are home to many rare species.
Commercial fishing will be phased out by 2023, but research and recreational fishing will be allowed. The designation prevents future mining and drilling there.
“Deep in the oceans exist some of the world’s oldest and most mysterious sea canyons and mountains, or seamounts. Formed millions of years ago by extinct volcanoes and sediment erosion, sea canyons and seamounts are biodiversity hot spots – home to many rare and endangered species,” explains NOAA.
While we’ve made great strides in stewardship of our oceans, they face threats from climate change, dead zones and unsustainable fishing practices. Obama says. “We cannot protect our planet without protecting our oceans. We have to act and act boldly. In these waters, the Atlantic Ocean meets the continental shelf in a region of great abundance and diversity as well as stark geological relief.
Ocean temperatures in the Northeast are warming at triple the pace as the global average, says NOAA, threatening the majority of marine speices including lobster, salmon and scallops. Over the past year, 300,000 people, from scientists to business owners and public officials, voiced support for protection these ecosystems.
Preserving hot spots for marine life is crucial as oceans acidify and warm. In this area, wildlife population densities are like a time machine to the New England of 400 years ago, says law firm Earthjustice.
In October, NOAA will release a Climate Science Regional Action Plan for the Northeast, which will help regional fishery management councils manage fisheries that are changing with climate change.
Obama made the announcement at the State Department’s “Our Ocean Conference”, spurring 20 other countries to set aside 460,000 square miles in 40 mmore marine preserves.
In August, Obama protected 90,000 acres on land in Maine and almost 600,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean. In addition to protecting more land and water than any US president, his executive orders redefined National Ocean Policy, address illegal fishing and seafood fraud, and created a national pollinator protection strategy.
Learn more about Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2016/09/12/the-case-for-a-marine-national-monument-off-new-england