Our Treasure, Our Future – Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

National Monuments Review Sample Comment Scripts for the Savvy Citizen.

Protect Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

ACTION ALERT: public comment OPEN for the Department of Commerce review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments since April 28, 2007
COMMENTS DUE BEFORE JULY 26. Click here to submit

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Protect Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument– Sample Script for Saturday, June 17, 2017:

Please protect the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.  This area comprises less than 5,000 square miles. This is the only portion of the important Atlantic deep cold water canyons and seamounts that are protected under the Antiquities Act as having Monument status. This Monument provides critical protections for important ecological resources and marine species. The monument area has been called an “underwater Yellowstone”. Its canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon and include ancient coral reefs, underwater and extinct volcanoes, and abundant sea wildlife including endangered sperm whales and sea turtles.

This Monument is a relatively small area. It comprises only 3 of the 90 underwater canyons that exist from Canadian border down to North Carolina. Surely we can set aside this little bit for future generations and limit fishing and refrain from lethal oil and gas drilling that has been planned for the area. The three protected canyons (about the size or larger than the grand canyon) and the four mile-high ridged mountains (seamounts) are known as biodiversity hotspots, home to many rare and endangered species including cold water corals, sponges, rare fish and invertebrates found nowhere else on earth. These canyons are isolated ecosystems where new life forms. Scientists have only been studying this area less than a decade, and without monument status, we stand to lose valuable resources and unique life forms that we don’t yet understand.

A number of New England fishing groups have claimed that there will be substantial losses due to restricted fishing in the monument area. That is not the case. They made their claim is based on areas larger than the final designated area and also did not include the 7 year phase-out period for red-crab and lobster fishing. At the time of this Monument designation (September 2016) there was only one full-time red-crab vessel and one part-time red-crab vessel active around the monument’s 3 canyons.  There was only one reported full-time lobster vessel that worked exclusively in the area, and the captain reported that he would be retiring within the 7-year grace period. There are reports of only 6 other lobster vessels that fish in the area of the monument some of the time.  And all the complaints fail to mention that studies prove that marine preserves actually enhance regional fisheries. Recreational anglers may continue to fish in the area under current recreational permitting regulations.

Of the other fisheries affected by the monument:

  • Swordfish and tuna constituted significantly less than one percent of the total area actively fished and provided less than one percent of the fleet’s 2006-2012 average annual revenues.
  • Squid, butterfish, mackerel and whiting fishing is concentrated elsewhere in the region. The monument area is estimated to have contributed less than one percent of total catch for this fishery historically.
  • There is only only one small spot of fishing activity for squid and butterfish in the monument. Fishing for these species is concentrated northeast of the monument area.

NOAA is providing help to impacted fisheries with federal programs that include “… low-interest loans for vessel rehabilitation, acquisition of new vessels, aquaculture, shoreside fisheries facilities, and gear repair or upgrades; surveys in partnership with industry; innovation in stock assessment science; and programs and actions aimed at reducing costs, reducing discard mortality, and increasing flexibility and efficiencies.”

“The canyons are widely recognized as hotspots of biodiversity, biologically unique, and ecologically and economically valuable for fisheries. Research demonstrates that the canyons provide valuable ecosystem services and economic benefits in addition to being places of refuge for species. Many of these species live many years, have low reproductive rates, grow slowly, and rely on the habitats provided by canyon features throughout their lifespans.” (NOAA)

“The protected areas provide:

  • Habitat for endemic and numerous other species including deep water corals, deep diving beaked whales, commercially viable fishes and significant numbers of habitat-forming soft and hard corals, sponges and crabs;
  • Protection for ‘Highly Migratory Species’, Including numerous large, commercially valuable species such as marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tunas, and sharks;
  • Habitat for protected species such as sea turtles and marine mammals, including endangered sperm, fin, and sei whales and Kemp’s ridley turtles.” (NOAA)

Ocean temperatures in the Northeast U.S. are projected to increase three times faster than the global average, according to NOAA. The monument designation helps to safeguard the resilience of this unique ecosystem, ensure a refuge for vulnerable species, and protects these natural laboratories for scientists to study the impacts of climate change. Fully protected marine areas are six times more resilient to the impacts of climate change and are a vital tool in protecting the health of our ocean for future generations.

We as a nation have the duty to protect our ocean ecosystems so that future generations can benefit from their beauty and bounty.  Healthy oceans sustain life on this planet. Every breath we take comes from oxygen produced by plant life living in the oceans. Surely we can see fit as Americans to allow the few miles of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to remain intact.

References:

Impacts on Commercial Fishing – https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/media-uploads/northeast_canyons_and_seamounts_marine_national_monument-_commercial_fishing_impacts_3-29-17.pdf

Monument FAQs – https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/mediacenter/2016/september/22_northeast_canyons_and_seamounts_faq.html

NOAA Resources – http://www.noaa.gov/news/first-marine-national-monument-created-in-atlantic

What is a Marine National Monument? – http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/marine-monument.html

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Expeditions – http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1206/welcome.html

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Education: Deep Sea Canyons – http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/themes/canyons/welcome.html

NOAA Okeanos Explorer: Mapping Undersea Canyons – http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/acumen12/welcome.html

NOAA North Atlantic Region – http://www.regions.noaa.gov/north-atlantic/

 

Photo: An octopus in a crevice in a canyon wall with a large white sponge, a large Paragorgia sp. coral bush, a large venus flytrap anemone, and a bottlebrush “black” coral bush. Image ID: expn3186, Voyage To Inner Space – Exploring the Seas With NOAA Collection. Credit: NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER Program; Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic. Photo Date: 20140920T181440Z. Canyons and Seamounts 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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