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Earthjustice Responds To Announcement of Creation of First Atlantic Marine Monument

Earthjustice applauds President Obama’s decision to protect what some call the ‘Serengeti of the Atlantic Ocean’
On Mytilus Seamount, a bamboo coral is attached to the black basalt rock formed by a now-extinct undersea volcano.

On Mytilus Seamount, a bamboo coral is attached to the black basalt rock formed by a now-extinct undersea volcano. The yellow animals on the coral are crinoids, or sea lilies, in the same major group of animals as sea stars. The summit of Mytilus Seamount is 8,800 ft below the surface of the ocean.

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team
September 15, 2016
Washington, D.C. —

Today, President Obama announced the creation of the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Map of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is located about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod.

The monument, officially named the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, would protect critical ocean habitat around a series of deep-water seamounts and canyons in Georges Bank, about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The monument would permanently protect nursery areas and help preserve habitat that has become even more critical as climate change causes the oceans to warm. The designation will protect a forest of deep-sea coral and sponges, which Peter Auster, a scientist with the University of Connecticut and the Mystic Aquarium, said resemble “a veritable Dr. Seuss garden.”

These coral communities provide food, spawning habitat and shelter for masses of fish and other ocean species.

Map of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.
© 2016 The Pew Charitable Trusts
The protected area, encompassing 4,913 square miles, is the first of its kind in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. View larger

The following is a statement from Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice:

“President Obama has taken a vital step today by designating the first major national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean, permanently protecting rich and unique ocean waters. In taking this step under the Antiquities Act, President Obama listened to marine biologists and other scientists who stressed the striking abundance of marine life in these irreplaceable areas, which have remained largely unaffected by human activity so far. One marine biologist said the wildlife population densities in these areas ‘are like a time machine to the New England of 400 years ago.’

“Such pristine locations provide important nursery areas and protective habitat for a wide variety of life, from sperm whales, dolphins and deep sea corals to a wide variety of fish and ocean plant species. Protecting special places like this provides an especially important buffer against the impacts of climate change.”

Images from Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic:

  • This pompom anemone is part of the seafloor community on the summit of Physalia Seamount and is rarely seen.
    NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team
    This pompom anemone, part of the seafloor community on the summit of Physalia Seamount, is rarely seen. While it looks like a plant, it is in fact an animal. It uses its tentacles to sting and subdue its prey, and then transfers it to a central mouth.
  • An octopus stretches its tentacles on Physalia Seamount.
    NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team
    An octopus stretches its tentacles on Physalia Seamount. This animal is a predator like all octopus and squid species, and feeds on fish and invertebrates on the seamount. Little detail is known about the lives of many deep-sea creatures.
  • Deepwater corals on the western wall of Oceanographer Canyon.
    NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition
    Deepwater corals on the western wall of Oceanographer Canyon.
  • Paramuriceid seafan (octocoral) in Oceanographer Canyon.
    NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition
    Paramuriceid seafan (octocoral) in Oceanographer Canyon.