Renowned Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle Dives in Cashes Ledge

Josh Block

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National Geographic Explorers Sylvia Earle and Brian Skerry join Conservation Law Foundation and local fisherman in calling for permanent protection for Cashes Ledge

August 14, 2015 (CHILMARK, MA) – World-renowned conservationist and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle launched this week a multi-day dive expedition to Cashes Ledge, an endangered ocean habitat eighty miles off the coast of Maine. Dr. Earle joined the dive expedition to amplify the efforts of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Mission Blue and other environmental organizations in calling for permanent full protection of Cashes Ledge. She has also declared Cashes Ledge and the New England canyons and seamounts  150 miles off Cape Cod “Hope Spots,”  critical marine habitats that, if fully protected, can help return the ocean to a healthy state. Filmmaker Robert Nixon (Gorillas in the Mist, Mission Blue) was on hand to document this conservation-oriented expedition for his new documentary, Blue Centennial.  Local Martha’s Vineyard fisherman Captain Buddy Vanderhoop was also there to lend support for the permanent protection of Cashes Ledge and other important areas in New England’s ocean.

CLF, along with Mission Blue, National Geographic, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pew Charitable Trusts, are leading a national effort to permanently protect New England’s treasures of the North Atlantic – Cashes Ledge as well as the New England deep sea canyons and seamounts.

“Cashes Ledge is the Yellowstone of the North Atlantic,” said Dr. Earle. “It is a unique formation, an underwater extension of the mountains of Acadia National Park. It’s a place known only to fishermen – and an amazing gathering of fish and other wildlife – until recent years when divers and scientists have explored and documented the nature of this glorious, golden forest.”

Early in the 20th century, actions were taken to begin protecting extraordinary natural, cultural and historic places – a network of parks and monuments across the United States landscape that has been called the “best idea America ever had.” Now, early in the 21st century, there is an opportunity to embrace comparable underwater treasures within the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, more than doubling the area under U.S. jurisdiction.

“Diving on Cashes Ledge was an experience of a lifetime, in a lifetime of amazing underwater experiences,” continued Earle. “I saw for myself what scientists have been raving about for years – a miraculous mountain peak that comes close enough to sunlight to be crowned with a thriving forest of kelp and a richly diverse assemblage of coastal marine life in the open sea.  Permanent full protection for Cashes Ledge and the deep sea canyons and seamounts of New England will be a good for the fish, for fishermen, for the ocean and for all of humankind.”

The subject of the recent Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary Mission Blue, Earle was named Time Magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet” in 1998 and currently serves as an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society.

Priscilla Brooks, CLF’s Director of Ocean Conservation, added, “We are fortunate to have such a breathtaking and biodiverse habitat in our own backyard, and we must do everything we can to ensure it remains protected. Sylvia has devoted her life to exploring and protecting the world’s most magnificent underwater treasures, and we’re thrilled she’s highlighting a cause as important as the preservation of Cashes Ledge and the deep sea canyons and seamounts.”

Cashes Ledge is a marine refuge for a diverse array of endangered wildlife, including wolffish, cod and right whales, as well as the largest underwater kelp forest on the Atlantic coast of the United States. In April, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) voted to continue temporary prohibitions on fishing for cod and other groundfish, but the area could be reopened by the Council in the future to industrial fishing.

The dive on Cashes Ledge was organized by Conservation Law Foundation in partnership with National Geographic and supported by Google.

Images and video coverage of the dive can be found here.

CLF experts are available for further comment.

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