NRDC, Partners Poised to Defend New England Ocean Monument in Court

WASHINGTON – Three environmental groups, along with a naturalist in Maine who leads whale watch tours, are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.  Fishing groups sued earlier this month in federal court here, claiming presidents do not have the power under the Antiquities Act to declare monuments offshore, and challenging this specific monument designation off the coast of Cape Cod.  NRDC and the other groups filed papers today asking to intervene to defend both this monument, and the executive branch’s authority to establish ocean monuments under the Antiquities Act.

“This is the Grand Canyon of the Atlantic.  It belongs to all of us,” said Brad Sewell, senior attorney with the Oceans program at NRDC.  “We’ll fight any effort to turn this ocean area—with its ancient corals and endangered whales—over for industrial exploitation. The monument covers just over 1% of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of other places for commercial fishermen to fish.”

“At Conservation Law Foundation, we have worked for years with scientists and members of the public who support permanent protection of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts and other such special areas,” said Peter Shelley, Senior Counsel for the Conservation Law Foundation.  “We need to intervene in this unfortunate litigation filed by fishermen – who use this area little, if at all – to ensure New Englanders’ and scientists’ views are properly before the court as it considers the industry’s claims.”


The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is a 4,900 square mile ocean area off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The monument includes 3 underwater canyons—deeper than the Grand Canyon—that are carved into the outer continental shelf.  It also includes 4 underwater mountains, known as seamounts, that rise more than 7000 feet above the ocean floor—higher than any mountains east of the Rockies.  It is a richly diverse area filled with deep sea coral, and is home to a wide array of marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and fish.

President George W. Bush established the first marine national monument with his designation in 2006 of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

The parties’ brief will be available here.

A blog by Brad Sewell, senior attorney for NRDC’s Oceans Program, is available here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit 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, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) uses the law, science, and the market to forge lasting solutions that preserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy. We’re creating a healthy, thriving New England – for generations to come. Follow us on Twitter @CLF.

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