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Obama Set To Establish First National Marine Monument

Photo from Pixabay

US President Barack Obama is set to make waves – and that’s not entirely a metaphor. He will establish the first national marine monument off Cape Cod in the Atlantic Ocean during the Our Ocean conference.

Named the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the “underwater Yellowstone” is the size of Connecticut. Also dubbed “a deep see Serengeti,” the monument holds a thriving underwater ecosystem of endangered sperm whales, sea turtles and other exotic species unique to the area, among deep-sea canyons, extinct volcanoes, marine forests and coral reefs.

Environmentalist Brad Sewall of the Natural Resources Defense Council says,

We’re phenomenally excited.

He adds that this wilderness remain free from intrusive human activity such as mining, drilling or commercial fishing. The challenge now is to preserve and protect it amidst threats from climate change, NPR reports.

Opponents have heavily criticized the move. Key members in the fishing industry claim that the president’s decision will seriously hurt their livelihood, pointing specifically to the offshore lobster and Atlantic red crab industries.

Senior White House officials, however, say there will be efforts to mitigate the expected financial impact, including a designated, albeit smaller, area for lobster and red crab companies. Compliance will be mandatory after seven years.

Obama used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument area last month. The Antiquities Act allows the president to act unilaterally, and officials say the same authority has been invoked hundreds of times by past presidents to protect national gems like the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon.

Secretary of State John Kerry, host of the conference, said, “By protecting ecologically sensitive areas of our ocean, the United States is leading on an issue that is important to people on every continent because of the ocean’s connection to food security, shared prosperity and resiliency in the face of climate change.”

The ocean conference will also announce its upcoming ocean conservation projects, which include billions in commitments to preserve specific marine areas.

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