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What Will Atlantic National Monument Mean for NH People, Wildlife?

Conservation groups in New England say the puffin is one of many species that will benefit from designation of the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic. (Steve Deger/Wikimedia)
Conservation groups in New England say the puffin is one of many species that will benefit from designation of the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic. (Steve Deger/Wikimedia)
September 19, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. -- With the stroke of a pen, President Obama designated a new national monument off the coast of Cape Cod, and there should be plenty of regional interest in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monument.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 25 million people from Maine to New York live in counties with ocean coastline - that's more than eight percent of the U.S. population. Roger Fleming, an attorney with Earthjustice in New England, said the benefits to sea life in the region are major.

"You know a lot of mammals, sea birds and fish spend part of the time during the year out in this area and are also part of the ecosystem that moves into the Gulf of Maine,” Fleming said.

This is the first-ever marine national monument for the North Atlantic. Recent polls show four in five locals supported the move, and a healthy wildlife population should have tourism benefits as well.

Peter Baker, director of U.S. ocean conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, added that there are solid conservation reasons for protecting these waters.

"The Gulf of Maine - off of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts - is the fastest-warming body of water on the planet,” Baker said. "So, providing these deep-water refuges for fish and marine mammals over the long term 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,” Baker said. “So the red crab fishery and the lobster fishery will be able to continue for seven years."

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 - NH