WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Thursday designated the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, protecting fragile deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The new national monument – which encompasses pristine underwater mountains and canyons – will provide critical protections for important ecological resources and marine species, including deep-sea coral and endangered whales and sea turtles.
“Over the past several decades, the nation has made great strides in its stewardship of the ocean, but the ocean faces new threats from varied uses, climate change, and related impacts,” Obama said. “Through exploration, we continue to make new discoveries and improve our understanding of ocean ecosystems. In these waters, the Atlantic Ocean meets the continental shelf in a region of great abundance and diversity as well as stark geological relief. The waters are home to many species of deep-sea corals, fish, whales and other marine mammals.”
The new Marine National Monument will protect 4,913 square miles that encompass three deep sea canyons and four underwater mountains. The area is home to rare deep sea corals, endangered whales and some species found nowhere else on the planet.
Corals on Mytilus Seamount off the coast of New England in the North Atlantic Ocean. NOAA via AP file
The move comes just weeks after the president created the world's largest marine protected area by expanding a national monument off the coast of Hawaii. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, originally declared by President George W. Bush in 2006, encompasses nearly 600,000 square miles.