President Obama: Declare a Marine National Monument for Cashes Ledge and the Canyons and Seamounts

Peter Shelley | @peashell47

Today, Conservation Law Foundation and a diverse coalition of partners are calling on the White House to declare the Cashes Ledge Closed Area in the Gulf of Maine and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of Cape Cod as the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic.

CLF has fought for years to permanently protect the remarkable Cashes Ledge Area. This biodiversity hotspot provides refuge for a stunning array of ocean wildlife – from Atlantic cod to endangered right whales, bluefin tuna to Atlantic wolffish. But just as important, it’s an open-sea laboratory for scientists to advance our understanding of the impacts climate change will have on our oceans and our coastal communities.

The Coral Canyons and Seamounts, located about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, also shelter an incredible breadth of sea life, including spectacular coral formations, some the size of small trees that have grown for hundreds of years. Whales, dolphins, squid and other marine life all call these submerged canyons and seamounts home.

Cashes Ledge and the Canyons and Seamounts are fragile and in need of protection from commercial fishing and other destructive commercial activities. I’m excited to say that public support for their protection is growing. Last night, more than 650 people joined us at a sold-out event hosted by the New England Aquarium and National Geographic, where we heard firsthand from business owners, divers, scientists, and others that these places are unique treasures that we must protect for future generations.

We’re on the brink of an historic opportunity: To protect these special places by creating the Atlantic’s first marine national monument. But we need your help to make this happen: President Obama needs to hear from you, today. Please take a moment to sign our new petition calling on the White House to make this monument designation.

Why a Monument, and why right now?

Unlike other types of protected areas, a national monument designation provides protection against all types of harmful commercial extraction, such as commercial fishing, oil and gas drilling, sand and gravel mining, and other harmful commercial activity.

Since the Antiquities Act was passed in 1906, almost every U.S. president has designated special natural and cultural places with the highest form of protection.

Cashes Ledge and the Canyons and Seamounts are vitally important to scientific research, due to the abundance and variety of unique and rare species, and their largely pristine nature. As we face the challenge of resiliency in the face of climate change, these underwater research laboratories will be key in studying how – and how well – we are able to adapt.

Some species of invertebrates, corals, and other marine wildlife take many years to form, and provide refuge and food for other rare and recovering species. But these precious habitats can only sustain themselves when they are protected in their entirety. Current protections by the New England Fishery Management Council are commendable, but they are not permanent or enough. A monument designation would expand on the existing protections and make them permanent.

There has never been a better time to protect these areas. The public is more engaged now than ever before. Earlier this year, more than 150,000 comments from the public were sent to federal fisheries managers, urging expansion of protection of important marine areas in New England. Since that time, support in other sectors has caught on: We’ve now heard from local businesses, aquaria, prominent scientists, educational institutions, and recreational users that they support permanent protection for these special areas. And with the success of last night’s event, we are full steam ahead for this effort.

Helping, not hurting key players

The Cashes Ledge area has been closed to bottom trawling and dredging for 13 years, and while the Coral Canyons and Seamounts see some minor pelagic longlining, the catch from this area contributes to barely 1.5 percent of revenues from that fishery. So, very little fishing currently occurs in these two areas. Permanent closure will benefit fish populations, which will finally be able to rebuild to healthy levels. What’s more, fish – like Atlantic Cod – that thrive and spawn in protected areas eventually move outward to surrounding waters, which supports healthy, sustainable fishing for future generations.

The economic benefits of permanent protection are also clear: The New England ocean economy supports more than 230,000 jobs and brings in $16 billion to our region – most of which is from tourism and recreation. Both of these rely on healthy and thriving oceans, and abundant fish, whales, seabirds, and the like.

At Conservation Law Foundation, we envision a healthy, thriving New England, for generations to come. A monument designation shows that we care about the ocean – and the people and communities that rely on it for their livelihoods – and we couldn’t be more excited to make this a reality.

Please join us in support of permanent protection for Cashes Ledge Area and the New England Canyons and Seamounts. Sign our petition today asking the White House to designate these areas as the first Atlantic Marine National Monument!

Miss the event last night? Check out the #SaveOceanTreasures stream to see pictures and updates.

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3 Responses to “President Obama: Declare a Marine National Monument for Cashes Ledge and the Canyons and Seamounts”

  1. Maury Eldridge

    In response to the CLF program, I sent the following letter to Senators Warren and Markey and Representative Kennedy.

    I recently heard a presentation on New England’s ocean treasures at the New England Aquarium. Hosted by Brian Skerry, a renowned photographer, the program featured scientists who have studied Cashes Ledges and the Coral Canyons and Seamounts on the edge of our continental shelf. The abundance and diversity of life is astounding, and so is its fragility. These areas are remarkably productive, but if damaged, are not resilient. Some species may take over two hundred years to regenerate once disrupted by any of the commercial extraction industries.

    From unique corals, to the cod that once filled our seas, to the tremendous numbers of marine mammals that these underwater topographies attract and sustain, these areas are sources of hope in our sadly depleted oceans. Most impressive at the meeting were the life long fishermen who rose to speak of the necessity for protecting these seeding grounds for fish stocks. If these most productive areas are preserved, they will help rebuild sustainable fisheries.

    Today is also the day we care for our grandchildren. I hope we leave them oceans deserving of their bright-eyed wonder. There is magic in listening to the breath of a whale and watching the grace of its flukes arcing back into the sea. There is enchantment floating amidst a school of circling fish, each eyeing you with seeming curiosity. I have had the good fortune of swimming in marine protection areas off Panama and Bonaire. When we meet the criteria for successful marine reserves, the results are immediately obvious. Let us do for our oceans what the National Parks have achieved on our lands: preserve the beauty, the awe and the abundance of life.

    Let us also take this step toward the health of our planet. The oxygen we breathe arises primarily from the ocean. The health of our oceans is also our own.

    A ban on commercial fishing in these areas will actually benefit the fishing industry overall, given the potential of fish in these rich grounds to seed larger populations. These particular areas can certainly be protected from oil and gas drilling or deep sea bed mining without financial loss anywhere near commensurate with the loss of destroying them. Protecting Cashes Ledges and the Coral Canyons and Seamounts can only be to our gain.

    I urge you to urge President Obama to utilize his authority under the Antiquities Act to set aside these New England waters for protection. For the sake of ocean life and of our own, please act to preserve these ocean treasures of New England.


    Maury Eldridge

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