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10 • 08 • 2021

Big Blue Win for the Northeast Marine National Monument

By Melissa Gates

In a historic move to honor the American tradition of establishing monuments on land and at sea to protect and preserve national treasures, President Biden today issued proclamations restoring protections for three National Monuments, including the unique underwater ecosystem of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

Protecting special places in the ocean creates opportunities for ocean wildlife, flora, and habitats to thrive and for ecosystems to build more resilience to climate change. Marine national monuments retain the integrity of vibrant, high-functioning ecosystems and keep them intact. Protections on marine monuments help everyone who loves the ocean—from whales to whale watchers and beyond. This is why the Surfrider Foundation and our Northeast Chapters have worked hard under the leadership of coalition allies to establish and promote the protection of this monument.

The Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906, enabled then President Roosevelt to proclaim America's first historic landmarks. U.S. Presidents across the aisle have since used the Antiquities Act to protect many of our nation's most outstanding public lands and waters. The well-known sites, Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty, are among those designated for protection under the law. 

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was designated by President Obama on September 15, 2016. It is located roughly 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in the Gulf of Maine and is home to rare underwater treasures, including deep sea canyons that plunge to depths greater than 7,000 feet (1,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon!) and astounding seamounts, which rise higher from the seafloor than any mountain east of the Rockies. This special area creates unique habitats that support tremendous biodiversity and fragile ecosystems. When left undisturbed and protected, this marine monument has tremendous potential to help restore ocean waters, habitats, and creatures now and into the future.

However, in 2017, former President Trump ordered a review of National Monuments designated by U.S. Presidents since 1996. The move jeopardized protections and integrity for dozens of terrestrial and ocean monument sites, including the California Coastal Monument, Hawaii's Papahānaumokuākea Monument, and the Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine Monument that Surfrider chapters worked so hard to designate. 

Then on June 5, 2020, amidst a nationwide racial justice uprising following the murder of George Floyd and the raging worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, former President Trump signed a proclamation decimating protections in the Monument.

Fortunately, President Biden included the restoration of protections for America's dialed-back monuments in his list of priority Day 1 Executive Actions

Following today's historic proclamation, our Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will once again enjoy necessary protection alongside the terrestrial Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, restoring not only environmental and historic integrity but also critically important sacred spaces, helping advance justice for Tribal nations:

“President Biden did the right thing restoring the Bears Ears National Monument. For us, the Monument never went away. We will always return to these lands to manage and care for our sacred sites, waters and medicines. The Monument represents a historic opportunity for the federal government to learn and incorporate our tribal land management practices. Practices that we developed over centuries and are needed more now than ever. President Biden was right to reinforce the action taken by President Obama almost five years ago. We battled for this Monument because it matters.”– Chairman Shaun Chapoose, Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee and BEITC member.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument restoration process will result in:

  • President Biden signing a proclamation to restore protections for the monument on October 8, 2021
  • Commercial fishing in the National Monument will once again be prohibited, with fishing for red crab and American lobster to be phased out by September 15, 2023
  • Consistent with President Obama’s Proclamation 9496, recreational fishing in the National Monument may continue

Today, we rejoice in the restored protections for America's monuments that we have fought hard to win back alongside a robust coalition of allies, on land and at sea.