Ed Chen, 202-289-2432
Mystic, Conn – The Connecticut Congressional delegation, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal, asked the Obama Administration today to permanently protect the New England Canyons and Seamounts, an ocean area about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
The President can protect naturally, culturally or historically significant places by designating a national monument. Sixteen presidents of both parties have designated more than 100 monuments over the last century. Four marine national monuments exist in the U.S. Pacific Ocean; New England’s Canyons and Seamounts would be the first in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean.
Mystic Aquarium and its partners in the Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures Coalition, which have been advocating for a marine national monument in the North Atlantic Ocean, welcome today’s proposal:
- “We are honored to call Connecticut home. The leadership shown by Senator Blumenthal and the Connecticut delegation to permanently protect this area is a source of pride for those of us dedicated to the preservation of our ocean planet. The designation of the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts will allow us to continue to study this vulnerable and otherworldly part of our ocean and ultimately educate our visitors with the goal of creating ocean stewards for generations to come.”
– Dr. Stephen M. Coan, President & CEO
- “This is a game-changing proposal that will permanently protect the area’s precious corals, marine life and vital habitats. These crown jewels of the Atlantic deserve nothing less, and the Obama Administration should embrace it wholeheartedly.”
– Brad Sewell, Director, Fisheries and U.S. Atlantic
NRDC’s Oceans Program
- “Compelling science shows that these deep canyons and underwater mountains contain rare habitats sustaining an extraordinary diversity of marine life, from corals to whales to seabirds. New England’s Canyons and Seamounts are part of our country’s rich natural heritage, and the public strongly supports protecting such areas for the benefit of generations yet to come.”
– Peter Baker, Director, U.S. Ocean Conservation-Northeast
The Pew Charitable Trusts
- “A monument designation for the Canyons and Seamounts would make President Obama a truly bicoastal ocean champion. It is the single most efficient way our country can decisively defend unique ocean wonders from a broad range of industrial activities.”
– Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy
Center for American Progress
- “Protecting the Canyons and Seamounts can increase resilience to climate change, support a productive ecosystem, and fuel many parts of New England’s economy. It is an essential first step in building a healthy future for our region’s ocean ecosystems and for all of us who rely on a healthy ocean.”
– Priscilla Brooks, Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation
Conservation Law Foundation
- “Unless we permanently protect them, we will lose these special places as new technology and capacity to develop in ever-more remote places advances. We must set aside some areas if we want to have a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem in the future.”
– Roger Fleming, Oceans Attorney Earthjustice
The proposed area includes a series of massive canyons – some deeper than the Grand Canyon – that cut into the continental shelf. Four nearby seamounts, the only such formations in the U.S. Atlantic, rise from the ocean floor. Fragile and ancient deep-sea corals, some more than a thousand years old, form the foundation of a rich ecosystem. The waters above host tuna, sea turtles, seabirds, and an extraordinarily high diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Last month, a poll of Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents found strong bipartisan support for the President to permanently protect the area. Since last September, more than 300,000 people – including business owners, boaters, surfers, beachgoers, scientists, educators, members of faith-based organizations, and elected officials – have voiced their support for permanent protection. In June, 49 organizations sent a letter to the President, asking for him to take action.
In March, aquarium scientists completed a wide-ranging analysis of the two areas, which showed they are hot spots for deep-sea corals, diverse habitats, and marine mammals. Earlier this year, Audubon’s Puffin Project scientists discovered the canyons and seamounts and the Cashes Ledge area are part of the Atlantic puffins’ wintering grounds, which had previously been a mystery. In July, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a white paper summarizing the fishing activity around the New England Canyons and Seamounts and describing the very limited impacts a monument could have on the fishing industry.
The Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures Coalition is composed of Center for American Progress, Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Environment America, Mystic Aquarium, National Geographic Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New England Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) is a non-profit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.