Last night, more than 400 people attended a meeting at the Marriott in downtown Providence to discuss the possibility of a Marine National Monument in New England. Facilitated by NOAA, the meeting drew people from every corner of New England who are invested in gaining permanent protection for the Cashes Ledge Area and the New England Canyons and Seamounts.
Over the course of three hours, we heard from aquaria, fishermen, conservationists, scientists, faith leaders, business leaders, and concerned citizens. The majority of speakers, including many representing fishing interests, acknowledged the fragility and importance of the places being discussed.
Though most within the fishing industry opposed a Monument designation, many commented about the importance of keeping the Cashes Ledge area closed. The regional fishery management process is not perfect, but it is clear the New England Fishery Management Council recognizes the importance of Cashes Ledge. As one speaker noted, ultimately, we all share the same end goal: To ensure a healthy and sustainable ocean, with healthy habitats and healthy commercial fish populations.
Monument designation about more than fishing
And while there was agreement that these areas are in need of protection, some were opposed to the President using executive authority to designate an area as a Monument, citing it as an overreach of power. However, as another speaker noted, sometimes a place is of such importance that the only way to ensure it’s not lost is through a tool like the Antiquities Act.
Cashes Ledge and the coral canyons and seamounts are two such places. And, in the end, commercial fishing isn’t the only human activity threatening their future. We need to safeguard these fragile seascapes from sand and gravel mining, oil digging, and other potentially destructive activities. A Monument designation will build on the existing protections for these invaluable ocean resources by the Fishery Management Council – and make them permanent.
Ultimately, it’s not the fishery management council’s duty or responsibility to preserve the scientifically important biodiversity at Cashes Ledge – nor should it be!
Conservation Law Foundation President Bradley Campbell, who joined the organization just last week, reiterated this point. “Even if the council is doing its job perfectly, it has no mandate to consider natural beauty, no mandate to consider scientific value, and no mandate to protect biodiversity or to protect jobs other than fishing jobs. So there comes a time when there are resources that are so exceptional, they’re outside the stove pipe of any given agency – and that’s what the Antiquities Act is there for.”
Regional Ocean Planning
Concerns about the Regional Ocean Planning process in New England were also brought to the podium, with some saying that a Monument designation undermines the ongoing ocean planning process. However, President Obama has publicly noted that ocean management and the designation of protected areas are concurrent priorities for his legacy. We at CLF are strongly committed to the regional ocean planning process, and are glad to have an Administration that recognizes the importance of both of these priorities.
Still Time to Make Your Voice Heard
Marine Monument protection for the Cashes Ledge Closed Area and the New England Canyons and Seamounts is within reach. Fortunately, NOAA has kept open the timeframe for public comments. Sign our petition here to let the Administration know why you support saving these ocean treasures for generations to come.