Protections Restored for Marine National Monument

By New England Aquarium on Friday, October 08, 2021

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Momentous changes are in store for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument due to the Biden-Harris administration’s recent decision to restore full protections to this underwater sanctuary.

Signed today in a special ceremony at the White House, the protections—previously repealed by the Trump administration—aim to combat harmful human activities, including commercial fishing. They also support the ocean’s health, thereby protecting the planet from the growing impacts of climate change.

The nearly 5,000 square mile sanctum lies 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. It’s home to vibrant deep-sea ecosystems of more than a thousand species of marine life, including rare whales, super pods of dolphins, endangered seabirds, turtles, and 70 species of highly vulnerable corals that can be up to thousands of years old. Aerial surveys of the Monument conducted by Aquarium researchers are a testament to the biodiversity of the area.


whale shark

A study co-authored by scientists at the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science in July of this year—and shared with the Biden-Harris administration—found that opening the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to commercial fishing compromises protections for vital marine species.

In 2016, after years of research, scientists from Mystic Aquarium, University of Connecticut Groton, and New England Aquarium provided crucial evidence about the area’s rich biodiversity, leading President Obama to designate it a national marine protected area. His proclamation excluded all commercial-scale activities, including fishing and mineral extraction, with a seven-year moratorium for existing offshore lobster and red crab fisheries. President Trump lifted restrictions on commercial fishing in June 2020, opening large sections of the Monument to fishing again.

Restoring these critical safeguards fulfills the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, a plan supported by the New England Aquarium.

Vikki Spruill, the Aquarium’s president and CEO, along with representatives from other conservation organizations attended today’s ceremony at the White House.
man and woman seated next to each other outdoors
Vikki Spruill (right) pictured with Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation
woman standing at a podium with Joe Biden and two other women standing behind
White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy remarks on the decision to restore protections as President Biden looks on. Photo by Vikki Spruill


A pod of striped dolphins are photographed swimming in the Monument.

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