WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today applauded President Obama’s action to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The monument: one that includes four undersea mountains - Bear, Mytilus, Physalia, and Retriever; and an area that includes three undersea canyons – Oceanographer, Lydonia, and Gilbert that cut deep into the continental shelf. The combined area is approximately 4,913 square miles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will manage the monument.
These areas are home to deep-sea coral ecosystems with rich biodiversity and unique species. Additionally, these geographic features result in oceanographic conditions that concentrate pelagic species, including whales, dolphins, and turtles; and highly migratory fish such as tunas, bullfish, and sharks. A large number of birds also rely on this area for foraging. The purpose of the proposed monument designation is to protect these fragile and largely pristine deep-sea habitats, and species, and ecosystems. Designating the monument ensures continuing and expanded protection of the area for future generations.
Both areas have been the sites of active scientific exploration, investigation, and discovery by oceanographic researchers. The New England seamounts have been found to have many rare and native species, several of which are new to science and known to live nowhere else on Earth. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research vessel Okeanos Explorer identified 15 species of coral in the area that had not been previously reported.
Commercial fishing, with the exception of a seven-year phase out for existing permits of the red crab fishery and the American lobster fishery, and other resource extraction activities will be prohibited within the monument boundaries. Additionally a 60-day grace period is in effect to ensure an orderly transition for all fisheries (other than red crab and American lobster) that are prohibited in the monument. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing, will be allowed in the expansion area by permit, as will scientific research.
Today’s announcement is made by the President under the authority of the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that has been used by 16 presidents starting with President Theodore Roosevelt to protect national treasures such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, the C & O Canal, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients. President Obama has used this authority granted by Congress now 27 times to protected hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – and has preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history.