In a major move that involves banning commercial fishing, President Joe Biden took executive action Friday to restore protections in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, an area about 150 miles southeast of Cape Ann.
Biden’s action restored the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, as established by President Barack Obama on Sept. 15, 2016, and reversing decisions made by President Donald Trump that allowed commercial fishing area in the nearly 5,000-square-mile area southeast of Cape Cod. Trump’s action was heralded by fishing groups but derided by environmentalists who pushed Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to restore protections against fishing.
“There’s nothing like it in the world,’’ Biden said of the marine monument, citing its “unique biodiversity’’ and “waters teeming with life, with underwater canyons as deep as parts of the Grand Canyon (and) underwater mountains as tall as the Appalachians. Marine scientists believe that this is a key to understanding life under the sea.’’
Under the White House’s plans, recreational fishing in the monuments area may continue but commercial fishing will be prohibited, with fishing for red crab and American lobster to be phased out by Sept. 15, 2023.
The White House cited the area’s “unique geological features that anchor vulnerable ecological communities threatened by varied uses, climate change, and related impacts.”
“This is an unfortunate decision that is opposed not only by those affected in the commercial fishing industry, but by all eight fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries,” said Bob Vanasse of Saving Seafood, a group that represents fishing industry interests. “There is no scientific justification to prohibit commercial fishing while allowing recreational fishing. While the Biden-Harris administration has claimed decisions will be based on science, and not on who has the stronger lobby, this decision shows otherwise.”
Environmental groups celebrated the news.
“Restoring the Canyons and Seamounts — an extraordinary underwater landscape full of ancient corals and sea creatures — preserves a living laboratory for scientists and will make our ocean more resilient in the face of climate change,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Antiquities Act exists to protect unique places like these for all time. No president has the power to abolish those protections with the stroke of a pen. This is a victory for science, for future generations, and for anyone who looks to these special places for solace, education, healing, and inspiration.”
In a separate action Friday, Biden restored two sprawling national monuments in Utah, reversing a decision by Trump that opened for mining and other development hundreds of thousands of acres of rugged lands sacred to Native Americans and home to ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah encompass more than 3.2 million acres — an area nearly the size of Connecticut — and were created by Democratic administrations under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historic, geographically or culturally important.
“This may be the easiest thing I’ve ever done so far as president — I mean it,’’ a smiling Biden said at a White House ceremony attended by Democratic lawmakers, tribal leaders and environmentalists.
Material from the Associated Press and the State House News Service was used in this report.