06 • 05 • 2020

Trump Administration Weakens Protections for New England’s Marine National Monument

By Pete StaufferMelissa Gates

President Trump has signed a proclamation to remove critical protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

With protests over racial injustice sweeping the nation and a global health pandemic continuing to threaten the world, one would think the federal administration would have more pressing matters than gutting protections for the ocean. Nevertheless, on June 5th, President Trump traveled to Maine to announce that he is weakening protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

The proclamation signed by the president opens the monument to commercial fishing and cancels a planned phase out of red crab and lobster fisheries. In doing so, the proclamation removes critical protections for this conservation area created in 2016 by the Obama administration to restore some of the most productive and ecologically rich waters off the Atlantic coast. The move also raises alarm that as the president approaches the end of the current term in office his administration may target rollbacks in other federal conservation areas.

“Today’s action by the Trump administration to gut protections for a national marine monument shows its continued disregard for our nation’s public lands and waters,” said Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director with the Surfrider Foundation. “With our nation facing immediate critical issues related to racial injustice and a global health pandemic, it’s alarming that the administration would choose to focus on weakening protections for the ocean.”

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is located roughly 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in the Gulf of Maine. It is home to rare underwater treasurers, 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!), creating unique habitats that support tremendous biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.

The Surfrider Foundation’s Northeast chapters supported the initial designation campaign, adding influence to secure permanent protection for the three canyons and four seamounts. The monument is intended to protect these special areas from threats such as fishing and mining, while maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem and recreational opportunities for low impact enjoyments, to help protect and restore the ocean ecosystem.

Scientists have documented that providing sanctuary for animals to shelter, feed, and breed helps them withstand other stresses and recover more rapidly after disturbances. 

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. 

Join Surfrider in signing this National Ocean Protection Coalition petition to save our seamounts.

Engage with our Northeast region to help pushback against this rollback.