From surface to seafloor, the canyons and seamounts off New England’s coast are spectacular. The canyons cut thousands of meters below the sea’s surface, while the seamounts rise like mountains from the ocean floor. Together, they provide a home for all sorts of marine life, from the ancient deep-sea corals that grow in shades of pink and orange to blue whales, the largest animal on earth, that swim at the surface.
The 4,900 square-mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument lies some 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod and includes three canyons and four seamounts. This week, we’re celebrating six years since President Obama designated this unique part of our ocean as a marine national monument.
Climate Change Threatens Our Ocean
Like ocean waters worldwide, New England’s ocean is at extraordinary risk due to climate change and the unsustainable human uses of its resources. We’ve known this for years, but recent sobering reports drive home the urgency: Three-quarters of the planet’s lands and two-thirds of its marine environments have been “significantly altered” by human activity. An estimated one million species are threatened with extinction, including about a third of sharks and shark relatives, a third of reef-forming corals, and over a third of marine mammals.
Here in New England, the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 96% of the world’s ocean, harming our fisheries like Atlantic cod and our coastal communities that depend on a healthy ocean. These numbers are frightening, but we can protect the planet, our ocean, and the natural places and wildlife we love if we act now.
Protecting Special Ocean Areas Can Help Turn the Tide
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument provides more than beautiful underwater sights – it fosters the resilience and health of our marine ecosystems. And, it improves their ability to resist and recover from the impacts of climate change.
On top of this, research shows that setting aside parts of the ocean fuels an abundance and diversity of life in adjacent waters. That, in turn, furthers our ocean economy by supporting activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, whale watching, and ecotourism in coastal communities, among other activities.
CLF is part of a growing movement of scientists, policymakers, businesses, and conservation organizations in the United States and worldwide calling for the protection of at least 30% of land and 30% of the ocean by 2030 (30×30, for short).
We want to see more protected areas created – like our marine national monument – where wildlife can recover and thrive without the threat of commercial fishing, oil and gas drilling, and other industrial activities. Other important areas in New England, such as Cashes Ledge and Stellwagen Bank, do not have the level of protection they need and remain at risk from destructive human activities.
Planning for the Future of Our Monument
This sixth anniversary comes at a critical moment. This year, the federal government will begin the process to develop a management plan to protect the Canyons and Seamounts, as well as the marine ecosystems they support. CLF will be at the forefront to ensure the planning process is transparent, science-driven, and open to all stakeholders.
In 2020, the Trump administration opened up the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to industrial fishing – leaving precious and endangered species vulnerable. We stepped up right away to fight this unprecedented and unconstitutional action in court.
Our plea was heard. Last year, President Biden announced plans to fully restore protections to Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument – affirming once again this majestic ocean treasure deserves to be permanently protected. CLF will be at the forefront of the planning process to advocate for the adequate protection of the monument. That means educating New Englanders on the importance of the Canyons and Seamounts while ensuring this place can support a healthy ocean and advance critical scientific discovery.
What Do You Care About the Ocean?
Join us in celebrating the sixth anniversary of our precious monument. Tell us why you care about the ocean and why you want to see more of it protected here in New England and across the U.S.