Progress Report: Protecting the Canyons and Seamounts

White coral found in Canyons and Seamounts Monument

Canyons and Seamounts National Monument nourishes many beautiful, rare species of coral. Photo: NOAA Ocean Exploration, 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts

The problem

Recent decades have seen a steady decline in New England’s ocean’s health due to threats that include overfishing, climate change, and habitat degradation. Iconic species like Atlantic cod are becoming depleted, beloved New England whales are facing increased threats, and warming waters are shrinking marine life habitats. Whether you turn to the water for recreation or your livelihood, New Englanders agree that protecting the ocean is vital.

CLF in action

Because a thriving ocean is crucial to a thriving New England, CLF helped lead the charge to create the Atlantic Ocean’s first monument, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The nearly 5,000 square miles of restricted sea make up a small percentage of New England’s ocean but are rich in unique habitats and diverse plant and marine life.

CLF fought for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts to be shielded with robust regulations, and we won. In 2016, after extensive campaigning, dedicated advocacy by a broad coalition, and a petition created with partners that received more than 300,000 signatures, President Obama officially designated the irreplaceable area as a marine national monument. When President Trump tried to roll back protections, we fought back and won again. In the years since the Monument was designated, marine life within its borders has begun to rebound.


While the Monument’s waters are currently improving, it’s vital that we continue to strengthen its protections against the growing threats that the ocean faces. That’s why the recent release of the first draft management plan by the Fish and Wildlife Service is an exciting first step in ensuring the future of the Monument. If implemented, the draft management plan will put into place guidelines to safeguard the future of the Monument from threats like commercial fishing, industrialization, and pollution. CLF helped encourage more than 580 members and constituents to provide public comment on this plan.

Next steps

While the draft management plan is a first step, this fight isn’t over until robust, comprehensive regulations are implemented to protect the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.

Safeguarding the Monument is both popular and possible. A recent public opinion poll by CLF found that more than 80% of people in New England want to permanently protect parts of the ocean, with key goals like sheltering endangered species, safeguarding key habitats, and restoring depleted marine life populations.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.