On Tuesday, Sept. 15, I sat in a packed conference room in Providence, Rhode Island, for a town hall-style meeting on a proposal to create the United States’ first national marine monument in Atlantic waters. Less than two weeks earlier, more than 600 people filled an auditorium at the New England Aquarium in Boston for a similar event to learn about the special places that would be permanently protected if the president designated this historic monument: Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine and the coral canyons and seamounts in deep waters east of Cape Cod.
Public enthusiasm for this proposal has been remarkable—more than 160,000 people have already voiced support. (You can join them here.) But it’s not just the number of people calling on the president to make this designation that impresses me; it’s also the diversity: business owners, elected leaders, fishermen, scientists, educators, birders, and faith groups are just some of the sectors represented in the public comments in favor of this marine monument.
Many of the people who submitted comments are featured in the following videos, which were provided by the Conservation Law Foundation. They also offer a glimpse of the underwater wonders at stake and the reasons so many people care so deeply about protecting them.
The scientists who study New England’s endangered whales and the tour operators who take thousands of people to see these massive, graceful animals know that Cashes Ledge and the coral canyons offer crucial habitat for marine mammals. This video features naturalist Zack Klyver of Maine’s Bar Harbor Whale Watch and whale expert Scott Kraus of the New England Aquarium.
Helping Fish and Fishermen
Many fishermen and researchers know that protecting these rich ecosystems will help depleted fish populations rebound. Here, Brown University biology professor Jon Witman and retired Maine fisherman Craig Pendleton explain how wise stewardship can result in more fish both in and outside the protected waters.
Supporting Coastal Businesses
Berl Hartman of the business group Environmental Entrepreneurs says the coastal economy—including an estimated 230,000 jobs—depends on a healthy ocean. In this video, she’s joined by Jamie Mathison, a Massachusetts small-business owner, and Rob Moir, who directs the Ocean River Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Protecting Deep-Sea Corals
Explorations of the canyons and seamounts continue to reveal more gardens of deep-sea corals. These fantastic structures can live for millennia, but as marine ecologist Peter Auster explains in this video, the corals are also very fragile.
Dr. Auster is a senior research scientist at the Mystic Aquarium, which recently joined the New England Aquarium and more than 220 other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in a letter supporting the monument designation. It’s not too late to add your voice; officials are still taking comments on this exciting proposal. I urge you let them know why these ocean treasures deserve permanent protection.