What We're Doing

Policy Solution

We help protect underwater canyons and seamounts, which are home to a plethora of important marine life.

Policy Solution

The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on the planet—and it's facing threats from oil companies. We fight to preserve this pristine sea and its wildlife.

Policy Solution

Since 2006, we've been working to establish a U.N. treaty for the high seas—one of the most far-reaching opportunities to conserve marine life for generations to come.

Policy Solution

From tufted puffin to Atlantic sturgeon, we fight for strugging marine species using the Endangered Species Act.

Policy Solution

Bringing together states, federal agencies, and tribes, we work to develop regional plans that conserve important marine habitats.

Policy Solution

We're helping restore and strengthen California's waters and marine life after decades of exploitation by industry.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution

By simply using less plastic, you can help keep marine life from eating and getting entangled in garbage.

Experts & Resources

Court Upholds Seafood Traceability Rule
Molly Masterton

Big Win in the Fight to End Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud

If we want healthy oceans, we need to know more about the seafood we eat. A lot more.

That’s why we are celebrating news about the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, also known as the seafood traceability rule. This week, a federal court rejected a challenge to the rule by commercial seafood industry interests.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued the rule last December. It is a key first step in the U.S. government’s efforts to combat the influx of illegal seafood coming into our borders. 

The seafood traceability rule was developed out of recommendations by a multi-agency Task Force in 2014. With this week’s ruling, NMFS has the green light to forge ahead with implementing this critical safeguard. 

As you may recall from my earlier blogs, the seafood traceability rule is all about requiring more data disclosure from importers. The purpose is to uncover elusive illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud practices. IUU fishing is a leading cause of overfishing, marine habitat destruction, and bycatch of ocean wildlife, and it is pushing our oceans to the brink. By creating unfair competition, IUU also impairs the global seafood economy and hurts our law-abiding fishermen at home. This is one reason why the seafood traceability rule has a history of strong bipartisan support from key decision makers and the broader public.  

The rule will make the seafood supply chain more traceable by establishing a data reporting procedure for imports of a number of “priority” species—including tuna, Atlantic and Pacific cod, and red snapper. The data will make them traceable from the point of harvest to the point of entry into U.S. commerce. At the border, importers will need to report what kind of fish they are importing, the quantity, and how and where it was caught or farmed. NMFS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will oversee this process, beginning in January 2018.

By shedding light on illicit activities along seafood supply chains and empowering agencies to take enforcement action, the seafood traceability rule will protect our oceans, along with U.S. and international fishermen who play by the rules.

Seafood at market.

NOAA Fisheries

As I described in an earlier post, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and a handful of commercial seafood businesses filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in January. They argued, among other things, that NMFS lacked authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our primary federal fisheries law, to regulate seafood fraud. NRDC, along with Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity, and with co-counsel from Earthjustice, filed an amicus brief in support of the rule—specifically, supporting NMFS’s authority to issue it under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

In a thorough, 67-page opinion, the Court drew on an extensive administrative record, technical studies, and legislative history. It concluded that NMFS followed both the procedural and substantive requirements of the law when it adopted the rule. While its discussion on each claim is interesting and robust enough to warrant its own blog post, I will highlight here two key points:

First, the Court recognized the gravity of the problem and the importance of traceability as a means to address it. It acknowledged the “profound” economic and environmental impacts of IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and highlighted how complex supply chains have allowed these problems to persist. Pointing to the work of the IUU Task Force and several independent studies, the Court found ample support to conclude that improving supply chain traceability is critical to deterring these pervasive practices.

Second, the Court made it clear that NMFS has authority to tackle this issue head-on by regulating both IUU fishing and seafood fraud under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This is crucial because seafood fraud overlaps closely with IUU fishing and is often used to conceal illegal product. In other words, to get at one issue, NMFS must be able to address the other. That’s what the traceability rule seeks to do. The Court recognized this, finding that IUU fishing and seafood fraud are “inextricably intertwined.” The Court considered previous amendments to the law, and determined that Congress had “gradually expanded” NMFS’s authority to address IUU fishing under Magnuson-Stevens. While Magnuson does not explicitly grant authority to regulate seafood fraud, the Court said, such regulations are appropriate when needed to combat IUU fishing, and it was reasonable for NMFS to interpret the law this way. The Court also found plaintiffs’ argument that Food and Drug Administration has exclusive authority to regulate seafood fraud unpersuasive.

The Court’s ruling is a huge win. But our work is not over. 

Our next priorities are lifting the administrative stay on shrimp imports—which account for 29% of U.S. imports by value and are known to be at high risk for IUU—and eventually expanding the rule to cover more species. 

As the Court stated, the scourge of IUU fishing is a problem of global concernTo protect our oceans and give our fishermen a fair shot, we need strong policies to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. This rule will be a real step forward in detecting and thwarting these practices at the border, and we are hopeful that NMFS can now move forward with robust implementation in January. 

Ships transferring illegal catch off the coast of Sierra Leone.

NOAA Fisheries

Get Your Mind Out of the Storm Drain
Alisa Valderrama

How cities can spur voluntary "green" stormwater management on private land

A growing slate of leading cities are seeing that the challenges of modern-day stormwater management require a departure from traditional approaches. Historically, cities have looked to centralized “gray” infrastructure: imagine thousands of storm drains and miles of underground pipes linked to few outfalls which dump polluted stormwater directly into the nearest waterbody. Today, leading cities are increasingly relying on distributed “green” means of managing stormwater.

These “green” solutions use principles of bio-mimicry to capture rainwater at or near the place where it falls. This keeps the rainwater out of the centralized gray systems where it would have become polluted. Instead, "green" solutions allow the rainwater to infiltrate back into the ground, where it can be re-used on or near the site where it falls.

Within the group of leading cities using hybrid “gray + green” approaches on a large scale, some are finding that some very low-cost green stormwater management opportunities exist on private land.   Rather than pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to capture the stormwater from an acre of impervious area in the street or sidewalk, in some cases it is far cheaper for a city to pay for stormwater capture on private land. For each city, there is a baseline amount that they are spending to "green" in the public right of way, and there is a lower amount that cities could offer property owners, in the hope that some of those low-cost distributed stormwater management opportunities get built. For example, where it costs $250,000 for Philadelphia to capture stormwater in the public right-of-way, the City can offer to pay private landowners $100,000 for an acre of impervious cover managed.

And that’s exactly what Philadelphia, and other cities, are beginning to do.

But figuring out how much to offer to private property owners to "go green" is only part of the challenge. Managing a grant or incentive program on a large scale is challenging for a city that is not accustomed to pro-active program marketing and outreach to its customers. And there is much at stake in getting it right—especially when a city recognizes that distributed green infrastructure is an opportunity not just to manage stormwater, but to become more resilient to climate impacts by reducing urban heat island effects, reducing localized flooding, helping improve air quality, and also beautifying neighborhoods, spurring local entrepreneurs and creating "green-collar jobs." That's a tall order.

Last year, NRDC and Philadelphia's Sustainable Business Network decided to delve into this fascinating niche—specifically into the green stormwater market that exists in Philadelphia. It's one of the largest in the country, doling out approximately $10 million per year to private property owners who use those funds to manage stormwater from their roofs and parking lots. Through its private property grant programs, Philadelphia has been able to get some extraordinarily low-cost stormwater management. But the City also recognizes the potential to create not just good environmental but also good local economic impacts through their programs, and they wanted to be sure to maximize those elements as well.

This brief report walks through some of the findings of our research into Philadelphia's green infrastructure market. We placed several dozen phone calls to interview a wide range of local stakeholders to understand what changes to the City's existing programs would strengthen the programs' positive economic impacts and climate resiliency. We are happy to report that Philadelphia will be implementing many of our recommendations in some form. A few key takeaways (in no particular order) are below:

  • Make it easy for vendors and property owners to link up. Develop a clearinghouse to connect vendors to property owners interested in stormwater retrofits
  • Keep the costs to submit a grant application as low as possible. Create a grant application process that minimizes “pre-development” costs and relieves the upfront financial burden for applicants.
  • Keep the grant program structure as simple as possible but consider funding the most desirable projects (for example, projects that will create vegetation in neighborhoods vulnerable to heat island effects) at a higher rate.
  • Provide as much information as possible about the grant programs via website, case studies, webinars, and/or workshops where potential program participants can share their views on how a grant program could best work.
World Oceans Day Comes at a Critical Time for High Seas
Lauren Kubiak

As we celebrate World Oceans Day this year, world leaders, businesses, scientists, and NGOs are gathered in New York at the first ever United Nations Ocean Conference. Threats to the ocean—including acidification from excessive carbon emissions, pollution, and overexploitation—continue to mount, but at the Ocean Conference, there is strong evidence that political will is building to reverse the degradation of the ocean.

“The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during the conference opening on Monday.

So far, in connection with the Conference, over 1000 countries, organizations, and stakeholders have made commitments to improve the health of the oceans. In sessions on sustainable fisheries, ocean acidification, and marine pollution, there is a steady and consistent drumbeat from nations—to save the oceans, nations must act together to share resources, intelligence, and build scientific and technological capacity.

One of the best opportunities to save the oceans is to protect the high seas, the area of ocean beyond national jurisdiction that makes up two-thirds of the ocean and nearly half the planet. When nations return to the UN next month to decide how to move forward in high seas protection, they will be making a decision critical for the future for the ocean.

Isabella Lövin of Sweden addresses the General Assembly Hall during a special meeting for World Oceans Day.

Lauren Kubiak

High Seas Discussions Represent Biggest Opportunity to Protect Oceans

Today, the high seas lack modern management mechanisms to address critical components of biodiversity conservation, such as the establishment of fully protected marine reserves. To fill those governance gaps, nations have been engaged in discussions at the UN to develop a new treaty to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Discussions continue next month, during which nations will decide whether to convene formal diplomatic negotiations to develop the text of the new treaty.

States agreeing to move forward and convene an intergovernmental conference in 2018 is vital, as this new treaty represents an unparalleled opportunity to conserve two-thirds of the ocean. Finalizing a treaty would be equivalent to a Paris Agreement for the ocean—a once in a generation opportunity to begin to reverse the degradation of our ocean.

At the Ocean Conference this week, countries including Argentina, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Palau, Spain, among others, have called for strong international provisions to protect the high seas. Their leadership is critical and we hope is an indication that next month’s discussions will be successful.

As world leaders today discuss how best to protect the ocean, I hope they recognize the high seas as our best opportunity to ensure a healthy future for our ocean. All of us depend on it.  

A large school of fish swims near Kingman Reef, an area in the Pacific where marine life enjoy the types of protections needed in areas of the high seas.

Lauren Kubiak

Coastal Rallies in Response to Trump's Offshore Order
Franz Matzner

Millions of Americans spoke out over the last several years to urge then-President Barack Obama to protect our oceans. And he did, to large extent, by permanently withdrawing nearly all of the Arctic Ocean and sensitive areas of the Atlantic from consideration for oil and gas leasing, removing both oceans entirely from the 5-year leasing plan (covering 2017 through 2022), and limiting seismic exploration that substantially harms marine mammals. Today, President Trump is initiating his attempt to undo those measures and Americans will speak out again. The communities of our southeastern seaboard mobilized en masse to preclude the oil industry from drilling off their coasts. Many of those communities are acting quickly this week to respond to the threat Trump’s Executive Order poses to their very livelihoods.

Below is list of events being held in coastal southeastern states. It will be continuously updated as more details become available and more event plans are solidified. So please check back if you live in this region!

VIRGINIA (1)

WHEN: Friday, 4/28 @ 1:15 PM
WHERE: Neptune Park, 31st St. on the boardwalk in Va. Beach
WHO (Speakers): Laura Wood Habr (Founding Member, BAPAC; Vice President, VBRA; Owner, Croc’s 19th St. Bistro); Joseph Bouchard, Ph.D. (Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Others TBA

NORTH CAROLINA (2-3)

WHAT: NO Oil Drill Press Conference/Rally
WHEN: Saturday, 4/29 @ 10:00 AM
WHERE: 10th St. Boat Ramp in Morehead City at the Bogue Sound end of the street (at the corner of 10th and Shepard St.)

WHAT: DontDrillNC press conference before OBX Peoples Climate March
WHEN: Saturday, 4/29 @ 9:00 AM
WHERE: Jockey's Ridge; 300 W. Carolista Drive, Nags Head, NC 27959

Another event in Wilmington, TBA

SOUTH CAROLINA (3-4)

WHAT: Beaufort Press Conf
WHEN: Friday, 4/28 @ 11:00 AM
WHERE: Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Bay St, Beaufort, SC 29902
WHO: Mayor Keyserling as primary speaker

WHAT: Myrtle Beach Press Conf
WHEN: Thursday, 5/4 @ 10:00 AM
WHERE: Damons Restaurant, 2985 S Ocean Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

WHAT: Charleston Press Conf
WHEN: Friday, 4/28 @ 2:00 PM
WHERE: Charleston Maritime Center, 10 Warfside St. Charleston SC 29401
WHO: Mayor Tecklenberg speaking

Trump Acts Quickly to Open Our Coasts to Offshore Drilling
Alexandra Adams

If you thought Earth Day would give President Trump and his administration pause in their ongoing assault on our environment and health, you were wrong. Instead, the week after hundreds of thousands of people rallied around the world in a global March for Science in support of Earth Day, the Trump administration is preparing to roll back critical protections against offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans and potentially force additional drilling off our coasts, while also taking aim at marine monuments and sanctuaries.

The move spurns the clear science that warns us that opening the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to oil and gas production—if the industry managed to pull it off in such risky and challenging seas—could derail our efforts to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, locking America into decades of carbon pollution. It also presents a very real threat to America’s oceans and coastal communities because of the harms and health hazards that accompany offshore oil and gas development, including seismic blasting and the risk of massive oil spills.

President Trump’s executive order purports to remove permanent protections that keep offshore drilling out of the U.S. Arctic and a number of other sensitive areas, probably including massive Atlantic undersea canyons (details remain a little vague). The order also directs the Department of the Interior to revise its current leasing plan to potentially include new lease sales in these areas, and possibly additional areas in the next five years. And it attempts to fast-track approvals of seismic blasting—the precursor to drilling—to the detriment of endangered whales, fish, and fisheries.

But President Trump’s executive order not only ignores science and citizens, it ignores the law. The law governing offshore leasing authorizes presidents to remove areas from leasing, but if those removals are intended to be permanent, it doesn’t permit a president to reverse that withdrawal. NRDC won’t stand by while the Administration takes actions that are so wrong for the country and environment. We are taking this to the courts with our co-counsel, Earthjustice.

Supported by scienceeconomicsclean energy leaderslocal businesses, and the vast majority of Americans, President Obama used power granted by Congress to permanently protect most of the Arctic Ocean and a chain of deep sea canyons in the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the Chesapeake Bay to Canada’s border, from dirty and dangerous offshore oil drilling. He also removed the entire Arctic and Atlantic from the administration’s five year leasing plan, responding to a groundswell of bipartisan local and national calls to preserve and protect our public ocean resources and all they support.

And for good reason. America’s oceans sustain life, not only for the vast array of marine species that inhabit their deep waters and coasts, but for all of us. The Atlantic Ocean supports a multi-billion-dollar sustainable seafood economy, and its coastal communities thrive thanks to clean and healthy oceans and beaches. And the Arctic Ocean is one of our last truly wild places. It not only nurtures a vast array of unique wildlife, but its health is also fundamental to regulating Earth’s climate.

President Obama’s decision to protect Arctic and Atlantic Ocean waters from expanded drilling came as a result of overwhelming support. A 2016 poll found 59 percent of Americans supported the idea to permanently protect the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from oil drilling. More than 1.4 million people submitted comments opposing offshore drilling to the Obama administration. Members of the U.S. House and Senate called on President Obama to protect the Atlantic and Arctic. Native Alaskan residents and thousands of Atlantic coast communities, businesses, and municipalities declared their opposition to drilling and seismic testing. Veterans spoke out on the security risks of Arctic drilling and climate change; and a host of environmental, Latino, conservation, faith-based leaders and women’s rights organizations called for permanent protection of these vibrant, oil-free waters that belong to all Americans.

President Trump not only wants to hand over our oceans to big polluters who place profits before public health, he also wants to remove protections for some of our most unique and valuable ocean ecosystems. This order directs agencies to halt designation or expansion of marine sanctuaries, and to review all marine national monuments designated in the last ten years. He is clearly taking aim at our most cherished ocean places. The executive order fits squarely within a long list of efforts by the Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress that weaken or eliminate fundamental protections for clean water, clean air, and public health.

The Trump Administration is moving faster every day in its attempt to hobble agencies and laws that protect Americans and our environment—our air, oceans and land. We must work together to stand up to this assault. Tell your elected representatives to protect our most important ocean treasures, to oppose expanded offshore drilling, and to safeguard our oceans, communities, and climate from reckless, unnecessary offshore drilling. 

Trump: Check the Fine Print
Franz Matzner

This week, the Trump Administration continued its sweeping assault on our public lands and oceans issuing an unprecedented Executive Order mandating a review of all National Monuments designated since 1996. As my colleague writes, this is a shocking rejection of the very principle of conservation that has been a central part of America’s identity since President Teddy Roosevelt set aside our first National Monument, the Devils Tower more than a century ago

It’s also enormously controversial. That’s probably why the administration took great pains to hide the ball on the true scope of its attack. Initial press statements claimed the review would apply only to a handful of larger monuments. Yet the actual Executive Order contains no such limitation, putting over 50 existing monuments on a target list to be drastically shrunk or sold off to the highest bidder.

Call it spin. Label it misinformation. Or an outright and intentional falsehood. The salient point is that it’s time for everyone—from individual citizens to the press—to look behind the curtain of Trump’s words and judge by the actual actions taken.

Little could be more revealing than the consistency with which Trump and his cabinet are systematically attempting to deliver the fossil fuel industry its wish list—no matter how much that list violates the science, the law, real economics, or the will of the majority of Americans. And that it puts our health at risk that rises with every anti-environmental action the president undertakes.

Tomorrow the President reportedly will announce another Executive Order that similarly threatens our valuable public waters. We can predict a similar pattern of misdirection.   

We are not certain of exactly what will be in the executive order. But we do know its intent: to be the opening move to putting drill rigs in our coastal waters—and oil spills—back on our beaches.  

There will be a lot of hand waving about jobs and energy independence, blatantly disregarding the threat offshore drilling possess to over 1.4 million existing jobs that support local communities up and down the coast. 

It will ignore the fact that oil from these still unspoiled oceans would take decades to reach consumers, long past when we need to make the transition to clean energy.  

And it runs rough-shod over the will of the people.  No one should forget that during the course of the last two-year process to evaluate the management of our commonly held coastal resources a groundswell of bipartisan opposition erupted across the nation demanding that our public waters be preserved and protected.   

That opposition will be on clear display today when Senators Ed Markey and Menendez host a press event along with 27 colleagues to introduce legislation further protecting our oceans, coastal residents, and climate. The event only underscores the broad base of support for keeping oil off our beaches and our commitments to clean energy on course.

There is simply no reason whatsoever to restart a process, concluded only a few months ago, other than to try and force the will of the oil industry on the people—by hook or by crook.

Tomorrow, we will see just how far President Trump wants to go at the behest of the oil industry.  

What we know today is that the administration is opening the door for our priceless natural landscapes to be sold and exploited. Our public parks, monuments, national forests, wildlands and vibrant oceans, set aside for all to enjoy, are a unique part of our collective heritage.  Preserving them has been one of America’s great innovations. Preserving them highlights American values. It’s our duty to protect them for this and future generations. These lands and waters belong solely to the American people. They should never be sold to polluters or given away to private interests that would desecrate and destroy them for profit.

And any attempts to do will meet the same intensity of opposition that led to the protection of these wonderful places in the first place. 

NRDC Acts to Defend Atlantic’s First Marine Monument
Brad Sewell

NRDC is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit that challenges the New England marine monument established last September—the first such monument off the continental U.S.

Together with other supporters of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, NRDC today filed this motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by five regional commercial fishing associations. This ocean park spans almost 5,000 miles and safeguards ancient coral gardens, endangered sperm whales, Atlantic puffins, and literally thousands of other animal species for the benefit of all Americans. Our goal is to prevent it from being handed back to private industries for commercial exploitation, including commercial fishing, seismic surveying, oil and gas drilling, and mining. We also want to protect the President’s authority to designate future marine monuments and demonstrate that the other four marine monuments–designated by Presidents Obama and George W. Bush—were legally created. Our partners seeking to intervene include a naturalist who leads whale watch tours, Conservation Law Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

I have written here about the canyons and seamounts monument, off the coast of Cape Cod, and why it’s so special.

Corals in Oceanographer Canyon.

Credit: NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.

The five commercial fishing associations filed their complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on March 7th. They are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based group that says it litigates “for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations.” 

The fishing groups are claiming that (1) that the President does not have the authority under the monuments law, the Antiquities Act, to create ocean monuments, including specifically in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and (2) the canyons and seamounts monument is “overly large” and is not “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” as required under the Antiquities Act.

Those claims are wrong.

The Antiquities Act provides authority for ocean monuments, not just land monuments.

The Supreme Court has made clear that presidents can establish national monuments to protect areas of water, and not just land. There are numerous examples of monuments that extend into the ocean or fully encompass marine waters. Moreover, the Antiquities Act explicitly provides for monuments to include areas “controlled” by United States. A U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memo concluded that the EEZ is an area controlled by the U.S.

The monument’s size meets Antiquities Act requirements.

As for the “smallest area” claim, courts have uniformly rejected such claims in the past. The Antiquities Act invests significant discretion in the President to identify important natural and archaeological areas that should be protected for the benefit of the American public. In this case, President Obama described with specificity the objects to the protected—the seamounts and canyons and the ecosystems they support—and provided a detailed rationale.

There has never been successful legal challenge to a national monument.  But we want to make sure this perfect legal record stays intact and we are concerned about the suggestion by Interior Secretary Zinke, a defendant in the lawsuit, at his confirmation hearing that the Trump Administration might reconsider some of former President Obama’s monument designations, specifically opining that “[i]t will be interesting to see whether the President has the authority to nullify a monument.”

The commercial fishing associations’ complaint greatly overstates the monument’s actual impacts on commercial fishing. The area was historically relatively lightly fished because it is so deep and rugged. The final monument was reduced significantly from that originally proposed to leave out more fished areas. Moreover, the monument provides a seven year grace period for the handful of lobster and red crab fishermen using the area to transition their operations to other areas. The monument also doesn’t affect catch limits. And it protects only a tiny fraction of the ocean (about 1.5%), which leaves the fishermen free to fish other places. A more detailed analysis of the monument’s impacts on commercial fishing is available here.

Even though there was historically relatively little commercial fishing in the monument area, that doesn’t mean it was not a threat. Fishing, as well as energy extraction and mining, will inevitably extend into deeper waters in the future. Industrial fishing gear used in the deep ocean, like large weighted nets that are dragged along the bottom, can damage and kill fragile, centuries old deep sea corals in the monument area. If damaged or killed, long-lived and slow-growing deep sea organisms recover very slowly. Fishing gear can also catch and entangle whales, dolphins, sea birds, and sea turtles that are attracted to the abundant small fish and other food in the monument.

There was an extensive public process over a full year leading up to this monument’s designation. More than 300,000 people and organizations—including over a hundred scientists, the region’s two leading aquaria, conservation organizations, and many businesses and faith leaders—wrote supporting petitions and letters to President Obama. Dozens of federal, state, and local political officials (including the entire Connecticut U.S. Congressional delegation) supported the monument’s creation. In a survey last year, four out of five respondents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts supported permanent protection of the canyons and seamounts area.

Recreational fishing is allowed in the monument area, and many in the angling community have lent their support to the monument. Canyons like those in the monument are favorite fishing spots for tuna, billfish, mahi-mahi, and wahoo, which are attracted to the abundant small fish and other forage in the area. Such angling provides significant economic, as well as social and cultural, benefits to coastal communities.

There are very few “blue parks” for our oceans like our national parks on land. These waters belong to all Americans. And monument designations are the best way to preserve and restore our most special and important ocean ecosystems. A monument is one of the few tools that can protect against all commercial extractive activities, from fishing to mining to drilling, in perpetuity. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the first such marine national monument off the continental United States.

Monuments benefit fishermen and coastal communities.

Scientists have found that protected ocean areas increase the density, diversity and size of fishes and invertebrates that are important to fishermen, both commercial and recreational. The areas can restore key ecological functions and species interactions that benefit populations of commercially-caught fish and invertebrates. One way of illustrating the benefits is the well-known phenomenon of fishermen fishing around the boundary lines of protected areas to reap the benefit of the spillover effect.

Like public lands, the U.S. is required to manage our publicly-owned ocean area for all its citizens. For the commercial fishing industry, catching fish is much like the commercial timber industry logging in national forests. That is to say, there’s no blank check for private interests in using our public resources—it is reasonable and necessary to limit industry’s ability to exploit our publicly-held waters.

Special places on land and in the ocean are our country’s heritage – and belong to all Americans. They provide us with places to fish and pursue public recreation. They are home to our most precious and unique ecosystems. They support biodiversity and enhance resilience against the effects of carbon pollution.

NRDC will fight to keep these special places protected so future generations of Americans can enjoy and benefit from them.

Ctenophore (eating another ctenophore) in Lydonia Canyon.

Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts 2014.

New “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act” a Testament to Resolve
Franz Matzner

Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2) and 36 original cosponsors today reintroduced the “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act,” which prohibits the provision of new oil and gas leases, as well as the renewal of old ones, in America’s Arctic Ocean.

The legislation builds on the historic action taken by President Obama last year to permanently protect the vast majority of these still pristine, publicly-owned waters from the ideologically driven efforts to expand risky offshore drilling. And it’s a testament to the resolve of Members of Congress from across the country, reflecting the calls for protection from Native Alaskan residents and veterans in addition to a host of environmental, Latino, conservation, faith-based, and women’s rights organizations, and the millions of citizens who have spoken out.

An oil spill in the Arctic would devastate an ecosystem rich in biodiversity and home to some of our planet’s most charismatic megafauna including polar bears, walruses, and bowhead whales. It would place at risk the livelihood and traditional culture of indigenous Arctic residents, already threatened by the worst climate change has wrought on the globe thus far. All while digging our carbon pollution hole deeper. The extraction of the Arctic’s oil has been specifically identified as incompatible with a safe climate future. Capital and political investment in Arctic drilling would undercut the accelerating clean energy transition and hamper our ability to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. All the while developing sustainable, domestic jobs that are not susceptible to the boom-and-bust cycles of oil prices.

Despite the harms unavoidably wrought by offshore drilling, and American’s overwhelming preference for protection—rather than exploitation—of the Arctic Ocean (and Atlantic), President Trump and oil industry allies in Congress persist their assault on our public lands and oceans. His cabinet choices, executive orders, and the legislation President Trump prioritized make clear that his allegiance belongs to polluters’ profits, not the American public.

Adding insult to injury, opening these public waters at the behest of a few select, private companies represents economic folly. The fossil fuel industry has received taxpayer handouts for decades and expanded offshore drilling would extend this dependency on raiding taxpayer pockets. This would be particularly egregious considering recent analysis by notable investors that Arctic drilling is all risk, its pursuit amounting to a “vanity project.”

The bottom line is the fossil fuel industry has stockpiled decades’ worth of oil. We face serious threats from climate change, and must now make smarter energy choices for the future. That means supporting more renewable sources, like wind and solar power that provide grow the economy while cutting pollution. 

With the “Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act,” Representative Huffman and his colleagues have drawn a line against expanded drilling that robs this and future generations of a stable climate, healthier environment, and a clean energy economy. Momentum is growing to preserve and protect our remaining federal lands and oceans, and America owes these Congressional voices thanks for their leadership.

Trump Watch: NRDC tracks the Trump administration’s assaults on the environment.

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