ME - The Antiquities Act Best Protects the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument
As the United States grapples with how to address the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises, policymakers should consider ways in which they can ensure the protection of ocean ecosystems and wildlife.
As the United States grapples with how to address the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises, policymakers should consider ways in which they can ensure the protection of ocean ecosystems and wildlife. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which then-President Barack Obama established in 2016 in recognition of the area’s impressive biodiversity and “objects of historic or scientific interest,” is the only marine national monument in the continental United States. Located about 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod, it protects three deep-sea canyons and four underwater mountains, and it teems with wildlife—whales, dolphins, sea birds, turtles, sharks and rays, octopuses and squids, fish, cold-water corals, and sea stars and sponges, all of which are provided refuge to feed and reproduce relatively free from human interference.
The proclamation that President Obama signed to establish the monument closed the area to all commercial fishing, mining, and oil and gas drilling. Shortly after the designation, however, the federal government was sued by commercial fishing interests that claimed the Antiquities Act does not grant the president authority to designate monuments in submerged lands. This set the stage for former President Donald Trump to reopen the monument to commercial fishing in 2020, claiming—without evidence or statutory authority—that “appropriately managed commercial fishing would not put the objects of scientific and historic interest that the monument protects at risk.” Although his proclamation did not lift the mining and drilling restrictions, it does allow the New England Fishery Management Council to use its authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to manage commercial fishing inside the monument.