Endangered Right Whales Threatened by Marine Monument Rule Change
BANGOR, Maine— President Trump issued an executive order today allowing commercial fishing in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. The announcement, made amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing national protests against police violence, follows a federal court ruling in December that rejected a challenge by commercial fishing group to the monument’s designation.
President Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in 2016 to protect 5,000 square miles of sensitive deep-sea coral reefs and the vulnerable marine life they support. Among those species is the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose declining population of about 400 is threatened by entanglement in commercial lobster gear.
“In crippling protections for this beautiful New England ecosystem, Trump threatens the survival of right whales and other endangered marine wildlife,” said Kristen Monsell of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Gutting these safeguards attacks the very idea of marine monuments, which provide a crucial shield against harmful fishing practices and other major dangers to our oceans’ health. Long after Trump leaves office, this reckless order will continue to take a grim toll on aquatic wildlife and our coastal environments.”
The Trump administration has been working to roll back protections of national monuments since early 2017 and open them up to mining, fossil fuel, commercial fishing and other extractive industries. Among the targets in that effort were the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll National Marine Monuments in the South Pacific.
The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is home to unique and incredibly important undersea features and creates an ecologically rich marine environment in which numerous species of marine mammals, sea turtles and fish congregate. It’s also home to thousands-year old cold-water coral species and other marine species found nowhere else in the world.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.