Protecting Remarkable Ocean Habitat Facing Mounting Threats

Cashes Ledge is a unique underwater mountain range located 80 miles off the coast of Cape Ann. This special place faces threats from fishing, industrial development, and climate change, and is in need of permanent protection.

CLF in Action

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. Now, more than ever, it needs a fully protected marine area, which scientists say are more resilient to the effects of climate change. Because of its noted scientific importance, Cashes Ledge should fill this role. Setting aside some areas with comprehensive protection is critical as New England begins to understand how to respond and rebound from climate change.

CLF has successfully worked to protect this fragile area from being re-opened to the most destructive fishing activities, but those protections are temporary.

In September 2016, President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the first in the U.S. Atlantic. CLF was proud to be part of the coalition that advocated for its establishment – and we’ll continue to work to ensure that Cashes Ledge receives the same level of permanent protection.

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What’s at Stake

The exquisite kelp forest, steep ridges, and deep basins of Cashes Ledge create unique and vibrant habitats for species both common and rare to thrive. This mix of biodiversity and largely undisturbed habitat also makes Cashes Ledge an ideal open-sea laboratory for scientists to learn about the health of New England’s ocean.

The New England Fishery Management Council currently provides the only layer of protection for this critical area. But the Council can only make decisions related to fishing. It can’t protect against threats from oil and gas exploration, sand and gravel mining, and other potentially harmful industrial pursuits.

What’s more, the Council’s protections can be removed at any time, leaving Cashes Ledge vulnerable to damage from the most destructive fishing gear, including bottom trawls and dredges.

And the stakes are simply too high to let that happen:

The rate at which the Gulf of Maine is warming puts New England’s economy and ecological assets at risk. Shellfish and groundfish populations are already struggling from changes in habitat and food availability, and some are already moving away from their typical habitats in search of cooler waters. A fully protected Cashes Ledge would provide a haven for struggling fish populations to rebuild and for rare and endangered marine life to thrive. That’s why we’re doing our part to make sure this special place is preserved for generations to come.