Group Seeks Federal Protection For New England's Undersea Paradise
And now, for some good news: The waters off the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island are home to a beautiful and thriving aquatic Eden. To ensure that it stays that way, conservation organizations have petitioned the White House to designate the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic.
The area’s five enormous canyons and four seamounts support an astonishing diversity and quantity of marine habitats, from the East Coast’s largest kelp forest to thousand-year-old corals. Research expeditions to the area have found vibrant populations of not only corals, anemones, and sea turtles, but also seabirds, dolphins, and whales, as well as apex predators like tuna, cod, and sharks. You can see some of them in the above video, put together by the NRDC using footage from the NOAA's Okeanos Explorer.
To date, the area has remained remarkably healthy, in part because there has been little fishing activity and no undersea mining or drilling. But that all could change unless the area is protected.
That's what Protect New England's Ocean Treasures Coalition is after. The coalition, comprised of 12 different science and conservation organizations, aims to secure government protection for the site in the form of a National Marine Monument designation.
Why a monument? Because unlike marine sanctuaries and other types of protected spaces, national monuments are totally off-limits for fishing, mining, and drilling.
The members of the coalition aren’t the only ones hoping to protect the canyons and seamounts. A June 2016 poll [PDF] of 403 Rhode Island and 400 Massachusetts residents found that 80 percent supported the protection of marine areas, even when that meant a ban on fishing, mining, or drilling.
Lisa Dropkin works for Edge Research, the market research firm that conducted the survey. “We often see strong support in polls for ocean conservation, and these results are among the most positive I have seen,” she said in a press statement.
Header image from YouTube // NRDC
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