Policy Update Sep 9, 2015

Position on New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area

NPCA submitted the following position to President Obama.

NPCA supports the designation of the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area as a national monument. This critical marine habitat is renowned for its unique geography and vibrant ocean wildlife. The health of this site clearly supports the offshore ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine and the U.S. Atlantic Ocean while the benefits of keeping this area intact stretch to the iconic national park sites along the eastern seaboard and nationwide.

The New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area consists of five underwater canyons and the only four seamounts found in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. These structures support a wide variety of marine life including a plethora of beautiful cold-water corals. The topography at this site is not only aesthetically striking, but also enables essential nutrient cycles, mixing oxygen and organic materials. A variety of species depend on the habitat provided by these diverse coral communities, including cod, bluefin tuna, sea turtles, squid, basking sharks, seabirds, and endangered marine mammals including North Atlantic right whales. The canyons are located within 300 miles of Cape Cod National Seashore, Fire Island, Acadia National Park, and Gateway National Recreation Area. This pristine area is an important hotspot for scientific research, as many not-yet-described and rare species reside here. The remoteness of this area and its current management structure have thus far protected them from unsustainable commercial extractive activities like drilling, dredging, fishing, and mining.

While the distances from the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area to coastal national park sites seem large, the impacts of this site on regional marine health are broad-ocean currents help nutrients and migrating organisms circulate many hundreds of miles, continually supporting the vibrant biodiversity of northeastern beaches. Additionally, this site is an important “carbon sink,” which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change throughout the nation.

Healthy coastal parks depend on healthy aquatic ecosystems, supported by relatively untouched sites like the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area. There are 86 coastal parks in the National Park System that cover more than 11,000 miles of shoreline and 2.5 million acres of ocean and Great Lakes’ waters. That represents around 10 percent of all U.S. shorelines as diverse as lakeshores, kelp forests, glaciers, wetlands, beaches, estuaries, and coral reef areas. These parks attract more than 86 million visitors annually and generate more than $3.5 billion local economies. Acadia, Cape Cod National Seashore, Fire Island National Seashore, and Gateway National Recreation Area alone collectively serve over 13.3 million annual visitors.

Setting aside marine protected areas beyond park boundaries at places like the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area as well as sites within park boundaries as planned for Biscayne National Park is critically important. The designation of marine protected areas offers one of the quickest and most effective science-based solutions for conserving and sustaining the future health and sustainability of marine ecosystems, ensuring the future of vibrant, healthy marine wildlife and habitat for generations to come. The protection of this marine treasure as a national Monument will preserve biodiversity, ensure educational and research mpportunities, build resilience against the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, and strengthening our deeply-embedded connection to the ocean.

America’s national parks give visitors from all backgrounds an opportunity to recreate and to “re-create” themselves through immersive experiences with the natural world. At places like Acadia National Park and Cape Cod National Seashore, visitors are often changed and inspired by the grandeur of magnificent natural phenomena, such as flocks of seabirds and pods of whales. By designating the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Area as a national monument and protecting it from damaging exploitative activities, you would be supporting the health of our northeastern coast. Moreover, you would be helping to protect both the natural and cultural heritage of this site and nearby nationally-protected coasts for generations to come.