Conservationists push for national monument

Undersea ravines deeper than the Grand Canyon, submerged mountains rising thousands of feet from the ocean floor and forests of kelp and coral would become the first marine national monument in the Atlantic if conservationists have their way.

“We have an opportunity to permanently protect two of our nation’s greatest ocean treasures, right off our coast,” said Priscilla Brooks, the Conservation Law Foundation’s director of ocean conservation.

Environmental groups want President Barack Obama to permanently protect Cashes Ledge, the underwater mountain and offshore ecosystem in the Gulf of Maine, and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts, the chain of undersea formations about 150 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

Groups representing the fishing industry have taken issue with the project as a whole, but there appears to be more opposition to protecting Cashes Ledge than the more remote canyons and seamounts.

Robert Vanasse, executive director of the fishing advocacy group Saving Seafood, said the monument proposal overlooks existing protections for Cashes Ledge and would remove local and expert input from the process. Bottom trawling and dredging have been banned there for more than a decade.

“There shouldn’t be a couple of people sitting around a table in the West Wing deciding this kind of thing,” Vanasse said.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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