A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld a decision by former President Obama to protect thousands of square miles of ocean near New England by declaring it a national monument.
Fishing groups had sued over the 2016 designation designed to protect coral and other vulnerable marine life.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed the case, upholding an earlier decision from D.C.’s district court and effectively ruling that presidents have the power to establish marine monuments alongside those on land.
“Like one of America’s very first national monuments, the Grand Canyon, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is a natural treasure,” Kate Desormeau, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement on the protected area.
“It provides habitat for a wide range of species, from endangered whales to Atlantic puffins to centuries-old deep-sea corals. Today’s decision affirms that presidents have the authority to protect marine areas like this for the benefit of current and future generations. Preserving ocean areas like this one will be absolutely key to ensuring the resilience of our oceans in a changing climate,” Desormeau said.
The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and other commercial fishing groups had argued designating the area a monument was not consistent with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, pushing to open the area to the industry once again.