Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was created six years ago today, September 15, 2016, by President Barack Obama. Roughly the size of the state of Connecticut and about 150 miles off Cape Cod, the monument features four seamounts as high as any mountain east of the Rockies and three large canyons beneath -seas deeper than the Grand Canyon. This spectacular ocean wilderness is home to rare whales, iconic New England seabirds like Atlantic puffins, colonies of coral from millennia deep, and a seemingly endless variety of fish and invertebrates.
It was generally a great year for the Monument. To recap:
- More important again, October 8e2021, President Biden signed a proclamation reverse the illegality of the trump administration backtrack protection of monuments. President Biden’s proclamation made the monument once again one of the few areas off the continental United States that have been set aside to be free of commercial extractive activity.the type of marine protected area that science shows is most effective in helping to conserve biodiversity and improving the resilience, structure and function of ecosystems, as well as providing a laboratory to study the impacts of climate change and other human impacts on our oceans.
- A peer-reviewed study published in January 2022 found no evidence that the monument harmed the commercial fishing industry. The study analyzed catch levels, location of fishing activity and distance traveled to fish before and after the 2016 proclamation as well as before and after Trump’s June 2020 dismantling. In other words , the Monument is not content with preserving biodiversity and improving the climate. resilience, but does so cost-effectively.
- A peer-reviewed study published in March 2022 showed that the Monument is a high place for the diversity of marine mammals. Based on an analysis of sightings of more than one million marine mammals along the Atlantic coast including the monument, New England Aquarium scientists found that the monument contained more than diversity of marine mammal species than virtually any other area of comparable size.
- In early August, the Mystic Aquarium celebrated its new exhibit on National Marine Monuments, which highlights the monument of canyons and seamounts. The exhibition is immersive and moving (certainly for me!), and a must-see if you’re in the area.
- Most recently, August 23rd, New England Aquarium scientists conducted their most recent aerial survey of marine mammal activity at the Monument. Similar to previous investigations, scientists saw over 500 animals, including fin whales, pilot whales and a whale shark (a rather rare sighting!).
Of course, this year’s news for the Monument has not all been good.. In April 2022, two commercial fisher complainants filed a new lawsuit challenging the legality of the Monument. The lawsuit is largely a retread of the commercial fishing industry’s failed legal challenge in 2017. In this new lawsuit, the NRDC and our partners – Conservation Law Foundation, Center for Biological Diversity and an observational naturalist whales in Maine – again stepped in to defend the monument.
We are confident Monument is here to stay and look forward to many more anniversary celebrations!