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New England Scores: First Atlantic Marine National Monument

The Atlantic puffin is one of many species that are expected to benefit from President Obama's designation of the first-ever marine national monument in the North Atlantic. (Richard Bartz via wikimedia)
The Atlantic puffin is one of many species that are expected to benefit from President Obama's designation of the first-ever marine national monument in the North Atlantic. (Richard Bartz via wikimedia)
September 16, 2016

CAPE COD, Mass. - With the stroke of a pen, President Obama has designated a new national monument off the coast of Cape Cod. It is the first-ever marine national monument designated in the North Atlantic, according to Peter Baker, director of U.S. Ocean Conservation in the Northeast for the Pew Charitable Trusts. Baker said the designation will protect key waters in the Gulf of Maine, off of Cape Cod.

"What it will do is protect three deep-sea canyons, and behind them it will protect four seamounts, and seamounts are higher than any mountain east of the Mississippi River," he said.

There should be plenty of regional interest in the new monument because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 25 million people, more than eight percent of the U.S. population, lived in counties with ocean coastline from Maine to New York in 2010.

Baker said there are solid conservation reasons for protecting these waters.

"The Gulf of Maine off of Maine," he added. "New Hampshire and Massachusetts is the fastest-warming body of water on the planet, so, providing these deep-water refuges for fish and marine mammals allows these species to survive and thrive."

The fishing industry expressed concerns about the economic impact of protecting these waters. Baker said the Obama administration listened to those concerns and responded.

"President Obama made some contingencies in the short term for some industries; so the red crab fishery and the lobster fishery will be able to continue for seven years," he explained.

Baker said recent polls show 4 in 5 locals support the move. Among the species that call the new monument home are Atlantic puffins, which use the area as part of their wintering grounds, a discovery scientists made this year.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA