Energy & Environment

Trump to reopen Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument for fishing

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President Trump on Friday announced that he will reopen the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Massachusetts for commercial fishing. 

The monument, about 130 miles from Cape Cod, Mass., was established in 2016 by then-President Obama to protect deep-sea environments and marine life. 

It includes several undersea mountains and canyons and is often visited by animals including whales, dolphins, turtles, swordfish, sharks, Atlantic puffins and deep-sea coral.

“We’re opening it today. We’re undoing his executive order,” Trump said on Friday, speaking from Bangor, Maine. “We are reopening the Northeast Canyons and the Seamounts Marine Region to commercial fishing.”

According to the White House, the president’s proclamation will amend the restrictions put forth in Obama’s executive order, but will not alter the boundaries of the monument. 

The move was criticized by marine life advocates who said it could threaten species in the area but praised by fishing groups that said it would generate millions of dollars for their industry. 

Gib Brogan, a senior campaign manager at Oceana, said that rolling back the monument raised concerns about the impact crab and lobster traps will have on coral and sponge habitat. 

“They are hundreds of years old, they’re extraordinarily fragile and even a lobster trap or a crab trap being dropped on top of them will do damage and it will take centuries for them to recover, if they can recover at all,” Brogan said of the corals. 

He said it also posed risks to endangered North Atlantic right whales, and that he believes the monument, which is far off the coast, is only used by a small fraction of Atlantic fisheries.

“The monument is by no means unique for fishing. They fish both to the east and the west of the monument,” he said.

Beth Casoni, the executive director of the Massachusetts Lobsterman’s Association, said that there have never been interactions with protected corals where people are fishing. 

“The fishing industry is under the most restrictive and conservative fisheries management anywhere in the world,” Casoni said. “The fisherman have been punished for being … conservation minded.”

She added that not allowing fishing in a 900-square-mile part of the monument would cause a $3 million dollar loss for the lobster industry and amount to a $15 million loss for the economy at large.  

Fishing activities are still taking place in the monument, as the crab and lobster fishing prohibition established in Obama’s executive order doesn’t take effect until 2023. 

In 2016, several fishing groups from across the Northeast including the Massachusetts Lobsterman’s Association sued in an attempt to overturn the monument designation and keep the area open to industry. 

However, a judge dismissed the suit last year, ruling that presidents can establish marine monuments.

Tags Commercial fishing Donald Trump Massachusetts Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument

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