A growing effort to permanently protect deep-sea canyons, mountains and ledges in waters off New England has the local fishing industry on edge.

“It would be a big hit for the company,” Jon Williams, president of Atlantic Red Crab Co. on Herman Melville Boulevard, said about the potential for the first marine protected areas on the Eastern seaboard. “We’re going to lose an area that we fish regularly, and we’re going to lose it forever.”

There’s a big “if” behind Williams’ statement. Environmental groups and marine scientists have intensified their calls in recent months for President Barack Obama to declare "national monument" status for three ocean areas, which would permanently protect them from an array of commercial and industrial uses. No decision has been reached, though, and the timetable for action could extend over Obama’s last year in office.

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