President Barack Obama said Thursday that he created the Atlantic Ocean’s first national monument because the planet cannot be protected without trying to safeguard its oceans.
Obama announced the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument at a State Department conference.
“We cannot truly protect our planet without protecting our oceans,” Obama said at the conference, which was attended by Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives of more than 20 countries who announced creation of their own protected marine areas.
Obama said dangerous changes in the climate, dead zones in oceans and unsustainable fishing practices means “were going to have to act and we’re going to have to act boldly.”
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument consists of nearly 5,000 square miles of underwater canyons and mountains off the New England coast. It’s the 27th time that Obama has created or enlarged a national monument.
Supporters say protecting large swaths of ocean from human stresses can sustain important species and reduce the toll of climate change, but fishermen worry that it will become harder for them to earn a living as a result of Obama’s move.
The White House said the designation will lead to a ban on commercial fishing, mining and drilling within the monument, though there will be a seven-year exception for the lobster and red crab industries. Recreational fishing will also be allowed within the monument.
In all, the new Atlantic Ocean monument will include three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon and four underwater mountains. It is home to such protected species as the sperm, fin and sei whales, and Kemp’s ridley turtles, the White House said.
Expeditions also have found species of coral found nowhere else on earth.